Four years ago Kobe Bryant retired from the NBA as the third-leading scorer in the history of the game, an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers.
There is no doubt, Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
Jan. 26, 2020 was a tragic day when the world discovered his life was lost in a helicopter crash, along with that of his 13-year-old daughter — Gianna.
Having been a sports broadcaster in the past, I had the pleasure of covering the Lakers, meeting several players including Bryant. While Bryant was a seemingly faultless shooter on the court, he is also remembered for his keen leadership skills.
Throughout his career, Bryant’s influence reached far beyond the game.
Bryant was considered a philanthropic entrepreneur, launching several non-profit organizations to support the youth of Los Angeles.
He was a national ambassador for the After-School All-Stars, an organization promoting academic success for young people. He became a milestone donor, contributing $1 million or more to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
He generously supported local high school sports teams.
But that's really just the beginning of Bryant’s efforts to support and inspire young people.
Two years ago, when Bryant’s daughter expressed a desire to pursue the game herself in the WNBA, he was fully supportive of his daughter’s dreams.
The night their helicopter crashed, Bryant was taking his daughter to a game of her own.
Through pain and victories, Bryant constantly pursued the best for his team. Here are five things leaders can learn from Kobe Bryant’s legacy:
- He may not have been perfect, but he inspired and pushed his team forward. Critics, players and fans would say Bryant wasn’t a perfect leader, but he owned the role. He never pretended to be the ideal leader, but he gave it everything he had every time.
- He was an intentional leader. After the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat, Bryant was given O’Neal’s leading role as the Lakers’ key shooter. While the transition had been known as a rocky one, Bryant stepped into the role boldly. "To be an effective leader, you have to be a really good listener and not to what's being said, but to what's not being said," Bryant said in an interview with ESPN. "You have to be really observant. That was a big transition for me. I went from being a scorer and a floor general ... to being a leader and that meant putting others first."
- He didn’t worry about failure. In an interview with ESPN, Bryant spoke on handling failure, saying, "You've got to step up and play, man. You can't worry about criticism. You can’t worry about failure. You really can’t worry about that stuff. You've got to go out and figure that out and play and do the best you can, and whatever happens, happens. You can't be held captive by the fear of failure or the fear of what people may say." Leaders who desire to succeed must not be distracted by worry or failure.
- He inspired his opponents. NBA rival Raja Bell recently reflected on Bryant’s influence saying, "This one hurts, and hits home especially hard. Because he was a friend and a competitor, and he was bigger than basketball. He was the type of guy that when you put your mind to something, and you put your mind to do something, not only you do it but you do it well."
- He continually pushed to be better. Even in his final game as a Laker, returning from an Achilles injury, Bryant scored 60 points, his highest game of the season. Even through his final moments, after endless wins in the game, Bryant was always striving to be better.
Whether in the heat of a game or seeking to improve the lives of young people, Bryant displayed leadership that spurred on fans and players around the globe.
Kobe Bryant’s character, on and off the court, is a remarkable example that remains essential to his legacy — a legacy that every leader should find inspirng.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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