August 7, 2014
By Michael Chung
Recently, Fortune listed the 50 top leaders in the world. The list included country sovereigns, priests, former presidents, philanthropists, and Nobel Prize winners. People like Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Warren Buffett, and America’s 42nd President Bill Clinton made the list.
One interesting figure to also make the Fortune 50 was Gregg Popovich, NBA head coach of the 2014 NBA World Champion San Antonio Spurs. After reviewing his record, it is no secret why he made the top 50 list. Popovich is one of the NBA’s historically best coaches.
After 18 seasons, Popovich has won five NBA Championship titles and he has only missed the playoffs once. He is one of only five NBA head coaches in the history of Basketball to have won five or more titles, the other four: Phil Jackson (11), Red Auerbach (9), Pat Riley and John Kundla (both have won 5). To learn from Gregg Popovich would be to increase leadership capacity.
One characteristic of Popovich’s success—empowerment—he does not micro-manage his players but develops them throughout the season so they can perform on their own within his system. In effect, Popovich has created a symbiotic scheme where both coach and player own the game. Jake Turtel of Fortune writes, “But the bottom line is he’s a quiet leader who believes in letting his players play—and not just his superstars. Popovich downright nurtures his bench, which this year had the fourth highest scoring average of all time.” Every player on the team has a role and believes they can impact the team towards victory.
One of Popovich’s empowerment teaching methods is to let his players solve specific problems. In an interview with Jeff McDonald of Spurs Nation, Popovich gives those interested in leadership studies insight into how he empowers his players and can help those in leadership empower those they lead. McDonald transcribes: