From Ordinary To Extraordinary
For this final installment in our leadership series, we wanted to highlight a leader who embodies all the leadership qualities we’ve discussed. Great leadership is not just about being in charge and having success – the real job of a leader is “moving from being responsible for the job to being responsible for the people,” even when that requires great personal sacrifice. The world desperately needs leaders like that right now.
As I think about the leaders who have impacted me – from teachers, to bosses, to all my heroes – there was one that stood out this week, someone who definitely belongs in the BOS Media Hall of Fame. His name is Jim Valvano.
If you have some time, the best way to learn about Jim Valvano’s leadership is through the movie Survive and Advance through ESPN+. It takes his experience as a college basketball coach, in particular in an unbelievably March Madness tournament run in 1982, and maps it with his own personal battle with cancer. “Survive and advance” became the story of his life both on and off the court.
If you don’t have ESPN+, you can get a glimpse into his story from this speech, when he was presented the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage on this exact date 29 years ago.
When I think about that speech, I always remember the simple advice he said would make every day successful. It’s summed up in three things:
- Number one is laugh.
- Number two is think – spend some time in thought.
- Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. “If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”
Hearing this again, I thought about the BOS Media meetings we had this week, and the times our team got to laugh, think and cry together. It made me so proud to think of how we’re actually getting to live this out. This type of success really is so simple if we give ourselves time to make it a priority.
Which leads to my favorite story about Jim Valvano, which summarizes so much of who he was as a leader, as well as some of the most important values in my own life and work. It was a quote he heard at age 16 from Olympic Champion Bob Richards that shaped everything about who he would become:
“God must love ordinary people, because he made so many of us. Yet every single day, in every walk of life, ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things.”
Looking back at all the people Jim Valvano impacted, and his legacy as a leader, I think it all came down to one thing: he actually believed those words. He instilled that belief into people every time he walked into the room. As he said throughout his life, “the greatest gift you can give to someone is to believe in them.”
I hope you do something extraordinary today. But most importantly, I hope you’re a leader who believes the ordinary people around you really can be extraordinary.