by Tom Goodman
February 24, 2012
What Jeremy Lin has accomplished (and the patient benchwarming before his fame) can teach us something about leadership.
Even if you don't keep up with the NBA, you've probably heard of Jeremy Lin. What a story! I doubt you think of an Asian-American Harvard grad who loves Jesus when you think of pro basketball. Apparently others didn't think much of his potential,
either. He was undrafted coming out of college, and though he made it on the NBA roster, he was cut from two teams (including -- eat your heart out -- the Houston Rockets). He finally landed on the Knicks' bench.
And there he sat for a while. In fact, he was reportedly close to being cut before a starter's injury put him in the starting line-up. The hapless Knicks suddenly started winning games -- six in a row, in fact -- all from Lin's scoring and assists.
As of this writing, "Linsanity" has yet to let up.
What can this sports story teach us about leadership? Robb Ryerse for Leadership Journal wrote:
Most leaders don't like to ride the bench. They want to be in the game, making a difference. They see how things should be and are anxious to do something about it. Often, this impatience can backfire, causing leaders to compromise themselves
ethically or morally. Moses was one such leader whose first attempt at liberating the Hebrews from Egypt caused him to murder a man. God benched Moses for forty years.
Leaders must be able to discern, not just the right things to do, but also the right time and place for making progress. Good leaders know that influence that is forced or coerced will backfire. Often, the best leadership opportunities arise
naturally and organically. At just the right moment, leaders are called from the bench into the game, but they're ready and willing to step up.
By all accounts, Jeremy Lin is succeeding now because of what he did while he was waiting on the bench. Far from sulking or seething, Lin used his time on the bench to get ready -- learning his coach's system, watching the mistakes made by the point
guards who played ahead of him, figuring out his teammate's strengths and weaknesses. He has made the most of the leadership opportunity that has arisen for him.
The bench is where we learn perspective, looking at life from new and unexpected angles. The bench is where we learn patience, realizing that everything can't always be fixed by the waving of our magic wand. The bench is where we learn humility,
valuing the whole team and not just our own skills and abilities. The bench is where we learn to lead.
We don't know how long this Linsanity will last, but we do know that Jeremy Lin maximized his time on the bench. And because of that, he is now making the most of his leadership opportunity in the game. We need more patient, humble leaders like
If you're in a "bench-warming season" in your life, this is some good wisdom to follow.
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