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Pau Gasol on what it takes to be a leader

A translation of the San Antonio forward’s recent article in ‘Expansion’

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This is a translation of Pau Gasol’s post on Expansion, which was written in Spanish.

Misunderstood Leaders, by Pau Gasol

Over the years, one of questions I've been asked the most is: How can one be a good leader? What does it take? Is someone born or made a leader?

To all these different question there exist a subjective variety of answers. I offer my own, based on my own experience and in some cases on what I've learned or read.

We live in a world of misunderstood leadership. Concepts of leadership have been converted into absolute truths. The keys of leadership are proclaimed in every university course, and every business training course. The conferences on how to turn yourself into a good leader are so many that they could fill an executive’s entire schedule.

Many leaders are unconsciously inconsistent in their leadership, without taking into account the repercussions of their own actions and decisions. At the end of the day many of the things we think about under the term "leadership" are only remotely related to it, and these are things that end up harming the concept itself.

I won't pretend, to develop a theory of leadership, but rather to touch on various elements of it that are important in my view: recognizing a third party or collective, intelligent use of authority, the recognition of error, and the ability to analyze a situation constantly without letting ego influence your decisions

Earning Respect

To begin with, the status of being a leader is something recognized by others, not oneself. It's something that always stems from the recognition of third parties who have naturally come to perceive it, accept it and commend themselves,
for better or worse, to following that individual. I don't know if one is born or made a leader, but I do know that to be a good leader one must earn the respect of others.
In addition, holding leadership will mean the intelligent use of authority, but it can never mean authoritarianism. In sports it's fundamental for there to exist a flow of communication and understanding between the the leader, or leaders, of the team, and the rest of the players and coaching staff. A leader is not a tyrant who imposes his or her law without asking for, or taking into consideration, the opinion of others. In this way the ability to listen to one’s teammates is fundamental for the growth and good functioning of the group.

People will lend their effort and energy to a person or organisation when they recognize the qualities they respect and see the possibility of reaching an objective. Leadership is knowing how to transmit and establish trust within the members of the collective.

One of the most difficult things for a person who assumes a position of responsibility is to recognise when they have erred and to not let his or her ego to affect
their next decision. The nature of professional sports consists in part of the fact that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Even the best teams throughout
history have experienced what it means to lose. Sport is a great teacher in so far as how to lead both in victory and defeat.

For me it's always vital to engage in constant analysis of the situation in which I find myself: being conscious of what is happening on your team so that you can detect situations or circumstances that might require, or not, your intervention can be the difference between success or failure.

In this facet, again, communication is very important.

I have had the luck to be able to learn from great coaches: Aito García Reneses, Pepe Hernández, Sergio Scariolo, Hubie Brown, Phil Jackson, my current coach Gregg Popovich, are among the most prominent. They are examples of people who have lead others over many years, demonstrating good character that always demands the best.

Probably, what has allowed them to remain elite in their profession is their capacity to develop their players and their assistant coaches, and their ambitions and egos, putting first team-based principles and values, highlighting the importance of equanimity (calm balance), and promoting the common good always above
that of the individual.

Analogy with entrepreneurs

When we see leaders today, we can view them not simply as leaders, but rather anecdotes. An analogy with businessmen can be observed here. The one who holds onto their position in business is the one who finds a way for his or her team to function better and produce the best performance despite difficulties and potholes. It is knowing how to make decisions under pressure, without the need to always raise your voice. As you know, Popovich practices the method of "a timely shout is better better than a well constructed sermon."

In review, there isn't only one form of leadership. Kobe Bryant and Kawhi Leonard, Messi and Ronaldo, Merkel and Obama... The list is very long and independent of
any opinions we have about one or the other, we can all be in agreement that they are leaders each with distinct ways of leading.

Let us recognize then and admire people who deserve the honor of being considered leaders, a term that we should never give lightly.

Thanks to @regarcia80 and @Galanttry for the translation.