leadership, head of school, skillset, board of trustees, independent school, education, business, technology, athletics, winning, succeeding, successful

How to “Win” More Jobs Than Anyone

Last month, legendary Stanford Women’s Basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, won her 1,203rd game, surpassing Mike Krzyzewski (Duke’s former college basketball coach) with the most wins ever, man or woman. Perhaps more remarkable, she accomplished this milestone with a higher winning percentage—82% of her games versus Krzyzewski’s 77%. If that were not enough, she has won three N.C.A.A. championships, arguably without the nation’s top talent because they don’t meet Stanford’s academic standards. So, what does VanDerveer’s success have to do with the leadership search process? Glad you asked.

I love learning from great leaders. It doesn’t matter which industry they’re a part of—education, business, technology, or athletics—there is always something to learn. With this in mind, pertaining to leadership searches in independent schools, a deep dive focusing on the leadership traits and skillsets that have led to T-Dawg’s (as she is affectionately known on Stanford’s campus) success reveals lessons that all school leaders should strive to emulate.  

Coach VanDerveer was asked to reflect on how she has been so successful, with a winning record every season after her inaugural one in 1985. As you look through her list below, note which trait(s)/skillset(s) you resonate with the most and why. Which one(s) do you need to add to your tool belt, and how/when do you plan to do that? 

● Be sure your staff complement you more than compliment you. 

● Maximize people’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses. 

● Don’t be the center of attention, don’t micromanage, and DO seek input.

● Outwork the players on your team. Take care of yourself—eat, sleep right, and exercise—so you can take care of one another.

● You can’t have [multiple] personalities, one for each player or staff member. But recognize everyone’s differences, get to know them, and understand where they’re at.

● Every behavior is communication—not just words, but also eye contact and body language.

● If your senior leaders [a.k.a. veteran staff] are unhappy, your whole team [staff] will be.

● Learn the art of the controlled meltdown. Be even-keeled — don’t get too high or too low. Be intense, but not a screamer.

● Love what you do and have great people around you—assistant coaches [staff] who complement you with different strengths.

● Do not be afraid to take risks and experiment.

● Be a lifelong learner—from professors, assistants, and players.

RG175 leadership Position Statements spell out “must have” leadership traits for the ideal candidate of each school. While those traits may be particular to that search, VanDerveer’s list (often unwritten in a Position Statement) is 100% essential. As you move through your next search, take a page (or two) out of Coach VanDerveer’s playbook, and you just might get that leadership search “win” you are pursuing. Then the question becomes, can you last in that position for the next half-century? But first things first. Go get ‘em!