Leaders make decisions. Hard skills, soft skills, communication skills, the ability to motivate and inspire–all those attributes and more matter, but ultimately every leader is judged by their decisions.
Including deciding when to stay silent and when to speak out.
That’s a decision Steve Kerr clearly (and once again) just made. When Kerr sat down for a scheduled press conference yesterday, he didn’t take questions.
Instead he said this (while long, I think it’s only fair to include it in its entirety):
I’m not going to talk about basketball. Nothing’s happened with our team in the last six hours. We’re going to start the same way tonight. Any basketball questions don’t matter.
Since we left (practice), 14 children were killed 400 miles from here, and a teacher. In the last 10 days we’ve had elderly Black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo. We’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California. Now we have children murdered at school.
When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough.
There are 50 senators right now who refuse to vote on HR8, which is a background check rule that the House passed a couple years ago. It’s been sitting there for two years. There’s a reason they won’t vote on it: to hold onto power.
I ask you, Mitch McConnell, all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence, school shootings, supermarket shootings, I ask you: Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers? Because that’s what it looks like. That’s what we do every week.
So I’m fed up. I’ve had enough. We’re going to play the game tonight. But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild, mother or father, sister, brother. How would you feel if this happened to you today? We can’t get numb to this. We can’t sit here and just read about it and go, well, let’s have a moment of silence. “Go, Dubs.” “C’mon, Mavs, let’s go.”
That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go play a basketball game.
Fifty senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage. Do you realize that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, want background checks, universal background checks? Ninety percent of us. We are being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we the American people want.
They won’t vote on it because they want to hold onto their own power. It’s pathetic.
I’ve had enough.
Kerr’s frustration is justified. For one thing, as a public figure he’s often asked to comment on issues and events unrelated to basketball. Even if he isn’t asked, neglecting to offer the customary “thoughts and prayers” could cause some to assume he’s insensitive or uncaring.
But that’s clearly not the case. Kerr frequently shares his views on broader social issues. He’s also experienced the repercussions of gun violence; his father, a university president, was killed by gunmen in 1984 in Beirut.
Watch the video. Kerr definitely cares.
Whether I agree with Kerr is irrelevant. He has a right to his opinions. He has a right to share his opinions.
As a leader, he has the right to decide to share his opinions.
Many leaders — like many people — try to stand out in superficial ways. Maybe they wear unusual clothing. Pursue unusual interests. Publicly support popular initiatives.
They try to stand out, but they choose relatively easy ways to do so.
Great leaders? They do it the hard way. They take stands they could be criticized for taking: not because they hope to stand out, but because they want to do the right thing. They take unpopular steps. They’re willing to step outside business as usual in the hope of making things better.
They take real risks — not for the sake of risk, but for the sake of the reward they believe is possible.
By their example, they inspire others to take a risk to achieve what they believe is possible.
That’s the kind of boss people want to work for.
The most important decision you make? It could be choosing to be the kind of leader who says what you believe. Not for praise, not for glory, not for branding or public perception or some other motive, but because it’s what you believe.
And because you’re willing to stand behind those beliefs.
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