Leadership During Times of Crisis: Five Takeaways from our NextUp Town Hall
By Jamie Hancock
April 3, 2020
This week, we brought together a group of experts to discuss leadership—something we take very seriously here at LeagueApps. Our goal was to provide attendees with strategies for supporting their communities as COVID-19 continues to keep us inside, to inspire them with stories from NBA champion Shane Battier and NFL analyst Michael Lombardi, and to highlight organizers that have adapted to this new reality with wisdom and strength.
Here were some of the highlights.
Clockwise from left: Jeremy Goldberg, Co-Founder and President of LeagueApps; Michael Lombardi, NFL analyst, Co-Host of The GM Podcast, and founder of The Daily Coach; Logan Kosmalski, Co-Founder and Director of Operations at ProSkills Basketball; Shane Battier, Former NBA Champion and Director of Basketball Analytics and Development at the Miami Heat; Michele DeJuliis, CEO and Founder of Women’s Professional Lacrosse League
Leadership isn’t just about qualities. It’s about behaviors.
A longtime NFL executive, Michael Lombardi has spent his career working alongside and learning from iconic leaders like Bill Belichick. To be a strong leader, he believes, it’s important to exhibit these behaviors:
- Practice common sense. Too often, egos get in the way of decision making and people lose touch with reality.
- Create stability. You have to provide people with the reassurance that you will fight til the bitter end. Stability is created through words and through actions.
- Believe in the people who you’ve assigned to do their jobs. Believe in the people that are qualified to make decisions. Too many people have opinions that you shouldn’t listen to. As a leader, you need to drown that out.
- Preserve the pride of the organization. You can do this by constantly honoring the people who have dedicated their lives to this work.
- Care more than anybody. You have to care the most.
Shane Battier, former NBA champion and current director of basketball development and analytics at the Miami Heat, echoed this sentiment. For Battier, two behaviors stand out—learned over the years he spent with Duke’s legendary Coach K.
- When dealing with crisis, be calm. “When the game was tight, he was always the calmest,” he remembers. “It’s amazing how a team can feed off that.”
- Practice belief over fear. He recalls Coach K calling the team into the locker room after they lost to Maryland during his senior year. “‘If you believe in my plan’”, he said, ‘we will be national champions.’ So in moments of doubt and uncertainty like we’re facing now, my advice to all the leaders here is channel your inner Coach K. We will get through this, but you have to believe. It’s okay to be scared, but don’t let that paralyze you.”
Leaders go back to their values.
Panelist Logan Kosmalski, Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Pro Skills Basketball, explains that going back to the organization’s values has helped them navigate uncertain times brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. “For a while, we talked about continuing to hold practices outside until the government or CDC shut us down,” he says. “But we quickly realized this didn’t line up with our value of ‘doing what’s right.’ Once we told our customers that we were going to shut things down, but that we still wanted to focus on ways to keep [players and coaches] together, we received very positive feedback.”
Leaders prioritize connection.
For Michele DeJuliis, CEO and Founder of the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, the best way to support your community during times of crisis is by identifying opportunities for connectivity. “Right away, my mind went to ‘okay, how can we continue to help and engage our athletes? I have five hundred kids, across all ages, that want to continue to develop and learn. How can I help them, how can I help their parents, how can I help my coaches from afar?”
Now, she’s holding twice-weekly virtual sessions with her coaching staff, trying to help them get “creative and innovative” as they develop content for players. Their priority is making sure that they’re providing kids with new content and a weekly schedule that they can follow and be held accountable to.
“Accessibility is important,” she says. “For the older players, it’s being available to answer questions about recruiting. For the younger kids, it’s ‘how are you doing today? What are you reading, what are you watching, how are you managing?’ There’s so much we can do from afar that I never thought I could do before.”
Leaders never lead alone.
Kosmalski says that while he and his partner may be the ultimate decision makers, they always try to get feedback from as many people as possible. “We get ideas from everybody in our organization, from top to bottom. This helps people get comfortable as things are rapidly evolving. We’ve always wanted to be open, communicate clearly, and allow people to have a say in what we’re going to do.”
He also emphasized the importance of looking at tough situations as an opportunity to strengthen relationships. “We’ve asked parents for help while also asking ourselves what we can give them or do for them that’s of value.”
For Lombardi, this means doing what’s right for the team when it might not be right for you. It’s about being mentally tough, he says. “What’s good for the company? It might not be good for you. What’s good for society? It might not be good for you. You have to be willing to do that.”
Leaders live in the moment…
Lombardi referenced Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who often speaks about the importance of living in the moment. People are always talking about where we’ll be in five years and how things will be different, but Bezos reminds us to look at what will be the same in five years, he says.
…and in the future.
You have to be able to pivot, DeJuliis says. “When we get the go ahead [to play again], what happens? If we lose May, what will we do in June? If we lose June, what will we do in July?
We’ll continue to profile inspiring leaders in the coming weeks, so make sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We also invite you to continue the conversation in our Industry Groups on Slack and LinkedIn.