Each year two to three players ask to become leaders, but wonder how. Those who ask are usually driven, organized and team examples of work-ethic. They are at the field early and thinking late at night about how to improve their teammates and the team. Typically a junior or senior wants more impact. “What can I do to lead?” If the question is asked, the understanding of the locker room’s corner is likely there. This “unnatural leader”, as most of us are, is ready for step one. Go to the corner to begin leading.
What can I do to be a leader?
Step 1: Identify Teammates Waiting for You
Step one is a single diagnosis. Find the team's weakest member now. This isn’t the worst player, but instead the one who needs to be led most today. He’s in the corner. Even if you don’t know the reasons, when mojo goes away, body language and reactive language shoot small flares. To lead, assess the roster and find a teammate waiting for you. He will want your clarity.
Step 2: Listen and Understand
Step two is to listen actively. MLB draft worries are eating him up with his game. Or, his grandma is slowly passing away in hospice 25 miles away. He may be the one with an 0-11 slump and a 1.9 GPA that seems headed there again this term. It has him worried he’s going to fail out of school. You’ll lead better with silent action here. Listen with a purpose, an intense desire to understand fully.
Step 3: Challenge and Support
Step three is the prescription. It begins by making sure step two is done. Give your best dose of one part challenge and one part support. The challenge comes in simple, specific action steps that change course. "The 1.9 GPA will get better if you sit next to me in study hall,” you say. Future support will be surprisingly natural. See your teammate tomorrow and your first thought will likely be his challenge. Back to step one. Check in.
Diagnose, listen actively and prescribe are terms from Steven Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As complex as team leadership is, it begins with a small act. One rep closer to building the ability you want is one other teammate elevated. Check that corner again tomorrow.