What The LA Lakers Can Teach Us About Leadership


The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the best sports teams in the NBA. They’ve won 16 NBA championships and 31 conference titles. Despite there long-term history of success, the past several years have been a bit of a mess. They just had their sixth straight losing season, even though they’ve signed one of NBA’s best, Lebron James. They fired their coach and their President of Basketball Operations abruptly resigned. Most recently, a report came out on ESPN that described the franchise struggles with toxic leadership. Sports can teach us a lot about what to do and what not to do in terms of leadership. Below, we’ll highlight some of the mistakes that the Lakers made and what you can learn from them as you build your career.

1. Using intimidation tactics is the wrong way to show authority. Instead, sell people on your vision.

As a way to show authority, it was reported that Magic Johnson had used intimidation tactics such as “letting his staff know that he had hundreds of resumes on his desk waiting to replace them” if they weren’t on board with new management. This is not a good way to build rapport with your team since it sends a threatening message to new staffers that need to comply or get the boot. Instead of using fear, there are better ways to motivate your team without threatening their job security. The best leaders sell their vision, and explain how each individual is going to be an integral part of the future.

2. Don’t surprise your team with hiring decisions when it directly relates to their role. Make them part of the process.

The Lakers signed several players without consulting key decision makers within their organization. To make matters worse, the people that they hired weren’t even approached by the manager overseeing the team. This would be similar to your boss hiring members of your marketing team without consulting the VP of Marketing at your organization. It is important that you make your team aware of decisions regarding the future of the organization otherwise your team is going to think that you don’t trust them or care what they think.

3. Don’t say one thing, and then do another. Stay as consistent as possible.

The Lakers told their coach that they felt he was heading in the right direction with the team, but then two weeks later, told him that he wasn’t doing his job and abruptly fired him. Consistency is an underrated part of leadership because it reflects on you when you make inconsistent decisions. A lot of leaders who say one thing and do another don’t realize they are hurting their relationships with other members of the team by doing this. Your team members will think, “if he did this to my colleague, the same can happen to me.” Always be as consistent as possible and make sure the actions you take align with your core vision.

4. Losing trust is the worst thing you can do.

In the report, it was noted that the players on the Lakers began to lose trust in management because there were rumors that certain team members were going to be traded or fired. It is critical that as a leader you do not talk badly about any of your teammates or act dishonest by telling lies. If you feel that a particular team member is underperforming, it’s better to have a conversation with them first instead of bad mouthing them to other members at your organization. If your team members hear rumors from other members that you are talking badly about them, it will reflect poorly on you and they will begin to lose trust in your leadership ability.