10 Leadership Lessons from the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry

I have thought about a blog post I wanted to write all week: 10 Leadership Lessons from the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors wrapped up an incredible season by winning the NBA Finals last week.

I found it fascinating that many people couldn’t stop talking about Lebron James all week and even after the Warriors won it all. It was almost as if a large majority of the nation couldn’t believe what they saw and refused to accept it as true. The Cleveland Cavaliers lost to a much better team, the Golden State Warriors (whose fans are known as #dubnation).

Of course there was a debate about Lebron James vs. Stephen Curry for Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the NBA season and the NBA Finals. However,  I came away intrigued by the leadership lessons from the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry we could all take away. I take that back. I couldn’t believe all the lessons I was taking away and needed to put into practice myself.
10 Leadership Lessons from the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry

10 Leadership Lessons from the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry

1) Don’t Proclaim Yourself The Best In The World

Most people inherently know this to be true (I think). Apparently Lebron James did not.

Now, one caveat is that I don’t have any clue what he experiences as one of the greatest NBA players to have ever lived. I don’t know what it is like to truly believe you are the best basketball player in the world (or the best at anything in the world for that matter). Perhaps I’m not confident enough, feel free to correct me.

But my point is not whether or not he is or is not the best player in the world. That is a great discussion and one that we will be having for quite some time I expect.

The point is that he sat there in a press conference and told everyone he wasn’t worried because he is the best player in the world. Healthy confidence is great. Sharing how great you are with others is not as great. In fact, he lost the respect of tens of thousands if not millions of people with his remarks that day.

As a contrast, on the day that Stephen Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors, was crowned MVP of the NBA for this season, he stood at the podium and took virtually zero credit for any of his accomplishments.

Which leader would you want to follow?

2) Seek Opportunities For Your Team

When Stephen Curry won the NBA MVP award, everyone began to speak about him more than they had previously (which was more than most). The hype great daily if not hourly. Everyone wanted to see Curry make his next 3 point basket.

But as the player named MVP for the year arrived at the NBA Finals, he didn’t do what most people thought an MVP would do. He didn’t take all the attention for himself. Sure, he played very well and dominated a few games.

But it wasn’t his domination that caught my attention. It was his teamwork.

Stephen Curry found a way to elevate the game of those around him. He built up his teammates. He shared the attention and kept the focus on the team winning rather than himself getting all the glory.

He took this selflessness to a whole other level when one of his teammates, Andre Iguodala, was named NBA Finals MVP. Curry didn’t just elevate the game of his colleagues. He elevated it above his to the point that he gave his teammate, Andre Iguodala, the opportunity to win one of the greatest honors in the NBA, the NBA Finals MVP.

3) Invest In Your Team’s Depth

I noticed many times that Curry rested on the bench to give his teammates a chance to gain experience and also to give himself a chance to rest. When leaders step a side for even brief periods of time, they are able to regain their energy and allow others to shine.

Curry did this on the court as well. I heard a theme throughout the NBA Playoffs this year about the Golden State Warriors. They are more than just Stephen Curry. They are a team with considerable depth.

As a leader, many times you will lose a team member, find yourself faced with a challenge that is greater than you expected, or need talent you didn’t know you needed. You will wonder how you are going to manage the situation. If you have invested in the depth of your team, you will position yourself for challenges you don’t even know about yet.

4) Spend Time With Your Family Even When It Isn’t Convenient

One of the biggest highlights of Golden State’s playoff run was the way that Stephen Curry involved his father, mother, wife, and daughter in his activities on and off the court. You can tell that he is a family man and loves those closest to him.

Curry took time to involve his daughter in a post-game press conference one night. Many probably thought, “That guy can afford a babysitter. Why doesn’t he get one?” or some other pessimistic opinion. But Stephen Curry stepped up to the mic with his daughter and nailed it. She did as well.

Everyone shared the videos of his daughter at the press conferences all over social media and she became the focus of large amounts of media coverage. I’m sure it was not convenient for Curry to sit on national television with his toddler crawling all over him and telling her daddy to be quiet, but it meant enough to Curry to involve her in his life that the inconvenience didn’t even seem to bother him.

Well done, Curry. Well done.

5) Give Your Team Credit

As I mentioned earlier in this post, when Stephen Curry won the NBA MVP award for the season, he took time to give everyone else credit.

Let’s be clear. I don’t mean he spoke for 5 minutes and finished his speech. Nor did he give others credit for 15 or 30 minutes. He spoke for about an hour and almost 100% of the speech focused on the impact that other people, organizations, schools, and family had on him throughout his life.

He also took time to give thanks to his team. He didn’t thank them real quick as a team. He went through every single player on the team and thanked them for the impact they had made and made sure to let them know that without them, he could have gotten to where he was.

6) Give God Credit

Throughout his career in the NBA, and even before while playing at Davidson, Stephen Curry has consistently given God credit for his accomplishments.

One of the most powerful moments in the entire season occurred as Iguodala received the NBA Finals MVP award and said something along the lines of: “I have to give thanks to God. We are believers. This is a team of believers.”

On national television. Really. He did that.

Yes. He. Did.

Iguodala and Curry consistently gave God credit for their accomplishments because they seem to know that any greatness in them is not based on how great they are but on how great God is. To start by talking about the greatness of Curry or Iguodala would be to miss the point entirely.

Any greatness in you is not based on how great you are but on how great God is. Click To Tweet

They know they aren’t the greatest anything in the world. They gave God the credit.

7) Changes Strategy Mid-Course If Necessary

During the NBA Finals, Golden State had a terrible game and everyone started to wonder if they would have a chance for the rest of the series. I’ll admit that I found myself questioning as well. I saw Lebron James and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers dominate the court in a way that seems to squelch all the talent on the Golden State Warrior team.

It is then that Steve Kerr changed the strategy and began starting players that didn’t normally start. He had others come off the bench during the game. He wasn’t willing to give up on the NBA Finals just because the strategy he had previously deployed didn’t work for a game or two.

He realized what we all must realize when we take on a challenge, start a business, launch a new non-profit or church, or start a new role in the corporate world; strategies often must change mid-course in order for you to stay effective. If you and your team doesn’t stay flexible enough to change when the situation changes, you likely have made the decision to move your team into isolation and insignificance.

8) Be Thankful For Your Parents

Our parents sacrifice their lives for us. They sacrifice their dreams oftentimes. They spend innumerable hours teaching us right and wrong. They exhaust their finances to protect, provide, and pave a path for us that gives us opportunities we never would have had.

Stephen Curry’s parents (his father is NBA great Dell Curry who had many impressive seasons with the Charlotte Hornets) are no different. Curry realized that and took the time out to thank his parents and remind people who taught him how to shoot the basketball. I find it not the least bit ironic that one of the greatest shooters in the game of basketball had a son who will always be remembered as one of the greatest shooters to play the game.

Talk about great parenting. Talk about a humble son who thanks his parents regularly. Wish we all could do a better job thanking our parents as Curry seems to do so regularly.

9) Play Smarter, Not Harder

Many different NBA announcers would discuss the amount of minutes that Lebron James played each game. It’s as if it is a badge of honor to play as much or more minutes than anyone else on the court.

On one hand I appreciate the effort of Lebron James to work so hard that he left all he had on the court. His work ethic is commendable and impressive at the same time.

On the other hand, I wonder if the enormity of minutes played by James led to the downfall of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It seemed like the Cavaliers relied so heavily on James that they never developed the depth that they needed to win against a team like the Golden State Warriors. Rather than playing a few players harder, the Warriors played smarter and utilized more players for less minutes. This allowed them to stay fresh, utilize everyone’s talent, and also wear down the Cavaliers.

Where do you need to begin playing smarter and not harder? How have you overworked yourself in the last year but need to scale back by working smarter?

10) Never Ignore The Little Guy

When Stephen Curry was in high school, he often wondered if and where he might one day play college basketball. He didn’t know if he would one day get a chance to play in the NBA like his father or if he would go to a small school where he would get playing time and no NBA opportunities.

Davidson College surprised Stephen Curry. Curry surprised us all except for Coach McKillop and possibly Curry.

When all the large Division 1 schools didn’t make offers to Curry, he was given the opportunity to look at Davidson College. You could say that Davidson took a risk on Curry because Curry wasn’t getting the attention from the larger schools that many other players were getting. However, I think many would today argue that Curry took a chance on Davidson by realizing the smaller school would ensure heavy playing time, a chance to play top tier Division 1 schools, and a chance to play at the highest level in the NCAA tournament.

Regardless of where you fall, both the Davidson College Wildcats and Stephen Curry were a match made in heaven. Both offered what the other needed. Both invested deeply in one another. Both brought excellence to one another in ways that a large Division 1 school wouldn’t and maybe couldn’t.

What we learned is that you should never ignore the little guy. As one of the smallest Division 1 schools in the nation, Davidson College has produced various notable alums. But you could argue that the two most notable students to have ever attended Davidson are the 28th President of the United States of America, Woodrow Wilson, and the 2015 NBA MVP Stephen Curry.

The little guy may not make the most noise initially but often the little guy is a force to be reckoned with.

Which of these 10 leadership lessons from the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry stands out to you the most? Do something to put it into practice today.