Thursday Thoughts On Leadership: March Madness

March Madness begins today. No, I’m not talking about your latest short sale. I’m talking about the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. The top 64 teams in the country begin a single-elimination tournament today to crown a National Champion. If you win, you keep playing. If you lose … you go home. Anyone can win. In theory the worst team has the same chance as the top team to win it all. Of course in reality only the top teams win. The best coaches, with the best players and the best preparation win. In fact the “lowest” seed to ever win was the eight seeded Villanova Wildcats in 1985. In fact, in the 71 year history of the tournament, four universities have won the tournament a total of 28 times, almost half. Even more telling, 33 coaches have one championship while the remaining 48 championships have been one by just 13 coaches. Is this starting to sound like top producers in the top real estate companies? It should. Like the tournament, in theory anyone with a real estate license can finish as a top producer. In reality, the best prepared, hardest working agent finishes at the top. How can an agent, a manager, or the CEO ensure that they finish at the top in an open competition, in a tournament of sorts? Is every listing up for grabs? Do all new agents or recruits spread out evenly to all of the companies? Success is not distributed evenly. Although it can seem chaotic, when you peel back the layers you find that the leaders in our industry are the hardest working, best trained, most dedicated individuals. Consider again the basket ball tournament for an example.

The University of California, Los Angeles holds the record with the most championships with a total of 11. Of those eleven one coach, John Wooden, led them to the top ten times. Far from the Madness we talk about today, for a time the tournament was very predictable. From 1964 to 1975, UCLA won the championship 10 times. As with so many examples of extreme success, it is easy to try and justify why he won so much. He had the best players. The truth is that only two of his players made it to the NBA Hall of Fame.

His secret was that his leadership attracted top players because he was always able to draw the best out of each and every one of them. He inspired his players to always achieve their greatest according to their abilities. This is evident in his sayings, “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming,” and “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” He was a great recruiter, he was a great teacher, and he was a great coach. He didn’t wait for the championship game to put it all together. He put it all together on the journey. He always emphasized that practice and preparation was the most important thing, so that when the championship game arrived, his team was always better prepared and inspired to win. And they did.

Finally, he built his teams on a Pyramid of Success based on principles such as enthusiasm, condition, skill, confidence, poise, team spirit with the top of the pyramid being competitive greatness that was applicable to not only basketball but to any endeavor. He explained competitive greatness by simply saying, “Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.”