The Beauty of Doors

The Beauty of Doors

One thing I have learned over my 20 years of working with leaders and thinking about leadership is that we can learn lessons from anyplace. So, if you are interested in learning where I got the idea for this blog, continue reading. If you just want the lesson, skip to the fourth paragraph.

Coaching basketball is one of my biggest passions and I find many things to observe while doing it. Like the time I was at a basketball clinic and the instructor commented on a drill that just about every basketball coach runs, which is the layup line.

This is how it works: one group of players line up on one side of the court and dribble toward the basket to make a layup, while another line of players waits to grab the ball after the shot has been attempted. Once the ball has been retrieved, that player goes to the end of the layup line and waits his or her turn to make the layup shot.

One purpose of the drill is to learn the fundamentals of the layup, but this is how the coach explained another goal. He said, think of the basket as a house with different doors. When one door is closed, locked, or blocked, “pick another door” instead of trying to bust the locked one down. In basketball language that means try a reverse layup or maybe a floater, or do a “Euro-step” or even a “Rondo” or a “Ginobili” (admittedly you have to be a basketball junkie like me to understand these phrases).

That got me thinking. Maybe the secret to being a great leader is to think about “picking another door.”

As aspiring leaders, many of us went to a leadership class or we read a leadership book that really excited us. Maybe it was Jesus CEO, or The Prince, or The Art of War. Much like a basketball player using only one type of layup, one approach to leadership often becomes our “go to” philosophy and when that philosophy doesn’t work, we just try harder. Or we say it louder, or we say and do it faster. When, in fact, the solution might be to try something different. In basketball terms, it would be to try another type of layup. Continuing the analogy, I would suggest you pick another door.

Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” And then consider this: We spend too much time on the how of leadership (what is the correct style or approach) instead of thinking about the why of leadership (what am I trying to accomplish). Most of us learn like players in the basketball layup line. We practice one move over and over, thinking that the goal is to perfect the move. Great basketball players (like Lebron James and Steph Curry) understand the goal is score the basket, not to perfect the move. Perfecting the move is useful, but not the goal. So when one way isn’t working (when the door is closed or locked), great basketball players pick another door. The same is true for leadership: when one approach is no longer effective, pick another door. Fortunately, there are so many different styles of leadership to choose from.

Good luck trying new and different doors!