Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway wrote a fascinating article about the perennially successful head basketball coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He called the piece, “The Five Pillars of Popovich.” Gregg Popovich, who has led the Texas team to five NBA championships in a little over 20 years, is the epitome of steady in a league notorious for constant change. Boudway laments that Popovich wouldn’t actually cite his own pillars of success, but the thoroughly researched column definitely exposes the principles that have made this legendary coach tick with exquisite precision. Those five pillars, in order, are:
- Own your luck. That is, be modest, humble, and don’t try to take credit for things you didn’t do.
- Do your work. The same tenacious ethic that made him way more of a player than he should have been has translated into his incredible success as a coach.
- Unleash your anger (strategically). Know when (and how) to get angry, channeling your passion and conviction into others.
- Widen your world. Always be a learner, and inspire others to do the same.
- Know your people. Build relationships, taking time to really know the people in your circle of influence. Former player Will Perdue articulates what so many say of the coach, saying, “I was kind of amazed by how much he wanted to know about you as an individual… He saw you as a human being first and a basketball player second.” In Pop’s own words to Sports Illustrated in 2013: “Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them. And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other. Then they start to feel a responsibility toward each other. Then they want to do for each other.”
We would modify and adapt the wording of some of the pillars, but the principles are unmistakably sound. When it comes to spiritual leadership, whether in the home or the church, these qualities are powerfully attractive.
Great leaders work hard to give others the credit and, most of all, God the praise. The goal is more important than the glory (Eph. 3:20-21).
Great leaders will not ask others to do what they won’t do (Mat. 23:3-4). They exemplify what they expect (Heb. 13:7).
Great leaders get the difference between the “big stuff” and the “small stuff.” Spiritual wisdom helps them channel their passion nobly. They reserve emotion for the eternal and temperance for the temporary.
Great leaders are learners, growers, and improvers. They hate complacency and disdain settling. Nowhere do they demonstrate this more than their pursuit of sacred truth, as consummate Bible students (2 Pet. 3:18).
Great leaders truly know those whom they lead. Assumptions, perceptions, prejudices, and appearances hamstring and even sabotage leaders. There is no substitute for loving people, genuinely caring about and being intimately involved in the lives of those whom they lead (John 10:1ff).
People are looking for leaders like this. They will follow them to the ends of the earth and, consequently, to heaven! None of these qualities necessitates a Ph.D. or a million dollars. They simply require dedication and discipleship! May God raise up more men who have the will and want to be successful leaders for Him!