Those Who “Did” May Be Best at Leading Those Who “Do”

Those Who “Did” May Be Best at Leading Those Who “Do”

The results are in: professional U.S. basketball teams have a higher winning percentage when their coach is a former brilliant player. And this halo-effect is substantial (six extra places up the league table) and quick (visible in the first 12 months of such a coach being hired).

Being an ex-superstar has its advantages…

What makes these coaches so effective, and are there insights that can be applied in the business world? As reported in Harvard Business Review, a recent study led by Amanda H. Goodall of Warwick Business School in the UK tells us more about the potential mechanism.

One contributing factor is that past excellence is very constructive in generating trust, a critical requirement of leadership. Credibility is established by showing that the leader has good judgment and can “walk the talk”.

The researchers also found that “instruction” and “praise” were the most common actions by these coaches. Instruction from a real-world expert with deep technical experience could extend a real advantage to a team as opposed to a coach with another background.

Another aspect is that teams that hire a superstar coach are signaling their seriousness and commitment to performance, potentially making it easier to recruit great players to the team.

The authors conclude that the general mechanisms described above are not exclusive to U.S. professional basketball teams but are relevant to other high-skill endeavors. Such as business leadership.

Are you developing leaders from the ground up who can “walk the talk” at all levels of the organization? What is the funnel of experience you’ve established that prepares them to lead as experts at your company?