Dale Brown was a senior in high school the first time an adult male told him, “I love you.” It was his coach. Leaders have a great amount of influence on the lives of those they lead, which is why they should always pay attention to the legacy they’re leaving.
In this episode of the Leadercast Podcast, we had the honor and pleasure of interviewing Dale Brown, former Louisiana State University basketball coach and owner of Dale Brown Enterprises, about his leadership experience. Read on for a look inside the episode, and listen to it in its entirety above or via the links at the bottom of this page.
Good Leaders Need Good Role Models
Dale is proud of the example his mother, a single parent with an eighth-grade education, set for him. He remembers her telling him about looking up and using big words to impress others. “‘Son, I want to tell you something,’” Dale recounts his mother saying. “‘If you spend too much time polishing your image, you’ll eventually tarnish your character and be an unhappy man.’” His mother would return a quarter to the grocery store if she got too much change and worked many jobs without complaint.
Another role model in Dale’s life was his high school coach, who later became the school principal. “He was balling me out for assessment off to one of the nuns in the classroom. And he said, ‘You can make something of your life.’ And he squeezed the back of my neck and said, ‘I love you.’”
Recognizing the need for leaders to share their wisdom, generosity, vision and, yes, love for those they lead is an essential part of leadership.
Dale says athletics gave him discipline, a positive self-image, teamwork and an education. When he became a coach, he tried to give that to his players—and 85 percent of those who stayed with him for four years got college degrees.
Succeeding Despite the Odds
Dale became a head coach without any references to speak of, and when he came to LSU basketball, there was no positive legacy to build on. Two qualities that helped him in his achievements were perseverance and determination.
On his very first basketball practice, all the lights were off and baskets were up because nobody remembered to open the gym. Perseverance made the difference. “So many times we talk about IQ, but your FQ is really important—your failure quotient. Failure stimulated me instead of depressing me,” he says. TWEET
In his job interview for the head coach position, Dale said he was going to recruit human beings first and basketball players second. “As a result of that, you may have an all-black team, you may have an all-white team, you may have an all-foreign team, or you may have a combination of all of those,” Dale says. His determination to find the best talent—and then investing more in it—is part of what brought him so much success as a leader.
Cultivating and Growing Followers
When Dale searched for talent, he looked for selflessness. “I looked at those guys like they were an extension of my family,” he shares. He still knows where each one is in their lives today.
He was also careful to build his players up, especially when he had a lesson to teach them. “I tried my best not to demean them in public in any way,” he explains. “The best potential of me is we, so when they mess up, they hurt the whole team.”
If he tore down his players, he would hurt them, the team and himself. “It’s not promoting yourself every time around the corner. It’s not being cynical and beating up everybody,” he shares.
A servant leader has humility, is stern but fair and loves his/her players—leaders should put a lot of focus on the latter. “You put your arm around me, I’d do anything for you. You grab me by the throat, that’s a sign of disrespect,” says Dale. Servant leadership requires leading by example. “I’d rather see a lesson than to hear one any day,” he explains.
If Dale could have given himself advice before starting out on his career, he would have said: “After I retired and sat back and looked at my coaching career, I recognized my limitations, my mistakes and my distance from the ideal. There is no perfection, so we can eliminate that, but we can all be better. We have so much in us, we don’t even begin to touch the greatness.”
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