Leadership and the Stanley Cup by GUAA Career Coaching Partner Larry Center (L’74)

Caps
The Washington Capitals celebrate winning the Stanley Cup in the final game against the Golden Knights in the 2017 season.

Like many in the DC area, I reveled in Washington, DC’s first major sports
title in 26 years. My entire family, including my sons Jared and Ben both
former Hoyas now living in New York City, are both huge fans, Jared
worked for Monumental Sports for four years after graduation, including two
years in Sales & Service for the Caps. We were all thrilled for the players,
the staff and the city.

As the Caps proceeded through the playoffs, finally overcoming the
Pittsburgh Penguins, coming from behind in every round, clinching each
series on the road, I kept asking myself one question: Why did THIS team,
with lower pre-season expectations, an acknowledged lesser level of talent,
fewer veterans and more rookies, finally achieve the ultimate prize: the
Stanley Cup? The answer I came to, one which I also heard from several
experts, was this: The 2017-18 Caps may have had less talent as a whole,
but they were a stronger TEAM. The whole was greater than the sum of its
parts. There was true chemistry among the players. They played for
collective achievements, not individual statistics. How did all this happen
when no one expected it?

Great leadership
Great leadership leads to great teamwork and excellent results. Great
leadership comes from the philosophy of the person in charge. The head
coach of the Washington Capitals, Barry Trotz, said this about his
philosophy: “I have a clarity..If you don’t win any awards or anything, I’m
not going to look at you any different. If you’re a good person, you treat
other people right and you live life right, then I’m going to think really highly
of you. If you don’t, I’m not going to think so much of you. And I started
getting that clarity that everybody looks for the wrong in people rather than
the right.”

As I pondered these words from the man his players call “Trotzy,” I
concluded that the Capitals’s coach understands several basic aspects of
great leadership:

  • Leaders must have clarity about their core beliefs
  • Leadership starts with the leader’s character rather than with the leader’s competence
  • Leaders must learn to lead themselves before they can truly lead others
  • Leaders view their teams through the prism of authenticity and how they show up rather than merely how they complete projects or tasks
  • Leaders make sure that their teammates look out for each other and are committed to “play the right way”

How does your leadership look this right now? How many of these leadership traits do you role model for your teammates? Do you possess clarity about your mission, beliefs and priorities? Are you self-aware of how your character shines through every day? Are you building a culture where team members “play the right way?” It’s never too soon to emulate the winning leadership of a Stanley Cup-winning coach.

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