Education Posts

5 Leadership Lessons From A Retired 3-Star General In The U.S. Army – Lesson #4

5 Leadership Lessons From A Retired 3-Star General In The U.S. Army – Lesson #4

By General Robert Van Antwerp

9 years ago




If you would prefer to read this content instead of watching the video, the transcript is available below.


What’s the difference between standards and rules? Which one of these is the fuel for world-class team performance?

Hi there, education heroes! My name is General Robert VanAntwerp, a retired three-star general from the Army. In this video, I’ll introduce you to a great coach and my friend, Coach K. – Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach at Duke University. Mike knows what it means to lead top performers and what it takes to turn top performers into a top-performing team.

So enjoy this talk, and I’ll be back with you in a few minutes!

The next guy here also needs no introduction; it’s Coach K. Coach K and I were cadets at the same time; he was an upperclassman to me. He was a very good guard on the basketball team, and our coach was Bobby Knight. What you may not know is that Coach K coached the Olympic basketball team as the head coach in 2008 and 2012, and they’ll win it again in 2016 because he’s coaching. He also was the assistant coach in 2004 when they got third place. These are all dream teams, you know – 1992 was the first dream team (all pros). These were dream teams. They’re the best we have, individually, but are they the best team? So you’re a college coach, and you’ve got stars like LeBron James, Jason Kidd, and Kobe Bryant on your team in 2008.

So here’s what Mike did, and this is my lesson forever. Before they had the first practice, he gathered a number of them together. Jason Kidd was the old guy on the team, but he was kind of the leader. Then, Kobe Bryant practices harder than anybody on the planet, Mike would tell you. If you want to talk about practicing like you’re going to play and playing like you practice, he did it. He was tough on the other players because he had an incredible standard for that. Then LeBron James is LeBron James; you hardly ever get a specimen like that! You say, “If I could design…if I were God and designed a basketball player, it would look like LeBron!”

Here’s what Mike did. He told those three guys, “We’re going to have a standards meeting because I don’t like rules; I don’t live by rules. I live by standards. But they aren’t going to be MY standards; they’re going to be OUR standards. What are our standards?” He said, “We’re going to have a meeting on standards – our standards for this team – and you guys are going to contribute.” But he didn’t tell them what to say.

So he built notebooks – his staff did. Those notebooks had three sections in them. If you opened the notebook – and I’ve seen his notebook; he keeps it on his desk – the very first page was a full-sized replica of the gold medal. What was that?! That’s the goal. That’s the vision. That’s the mission. That’s what we’re going to do! The next page was (this was pretty cool), it was on two pages, and it was the March Madness seeding chart. It finally came down to one, and that was the winner. He had written in there, “USA,” and then he wrote down the team that beat them in 2004. He said, “The way there…is through them.”

Then the last page – it was a double page, too – just written on the top, in his own pen, OUR STANDARDS. He started out the discussion (and it’s on page 76 of his book, The Gold Standard). He started it out, and he threw the first word out there. They talked about it, and what was recorded was just the word. One of the other players said, “I think we ought to be respectful.” So, Mike just let the conversation go, and said, “Well, who are we going to respect?” The answers were, “We’re going to respect each other as players. We’re going to respect the coaches. We’re going to respect the doctors. We’re going to respect the guys that tape our ankles…the guys that pick up our grungy, sweaty, stinky uniforms. Because tomorrow when we come in,” – they have open lockers – “it’s all going to be pristine. The guys that help do all that stuff, but who no one ever sees – we’re going to respect them.” “What about the other team? Are we going to respect them? Oh, yeah.” They added that. They didn’t write it down; they talked about it. “Are we going to respect the referees? Are we?” And then finally, Jason Kidd said, “You know, while we’re talking about respect. When we win the gold medal, and we’re standing on the podium, I think we all ought to have our uniforms zipped up, and I think we ought to have our hand on our heart. I think we ought to be looking at the flag of our country that we’re representing, and we ought to be singing the national anthem.” I mean…how good did that make Mike feel? It didn’t come from HIM; it came from THEM. So there are about 12 of these standards – their words. Have you guys ever heard of a social contract? That’s kind of what it is. This is how we behave toward each other and beyond.

Well, I hope you enjoyed learning the power of standards. Do you have rules or standards with your teams? Are your teams invested in the creation of those standards?

If you found this talk helpful, please do us a favor. Click the “Like” button to share with your friends; and also scroll down to the bottom of this post, and let us know your thoughts.

So let’s continue the discussion below. We’d love to hear from you! Take care, and I’ll see you soon.

General Robert Van Antwerp

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