Playbook for Success: A Hall of Famer’s Tactics for Women in Leadership

Playbook for SuccessNo matter the sport we appreciate an athlete’s influence on a professional sports league.   That influence is exponentially higher when an athlete has made trailblazing firsts that furthers a society as well as a sport.

Nancy Lieberman is exactly that trailblazer. An Olympic champion whose has sport-transforming success in women’s collegate and professional basketball, Nancy achieved a high regard among athletes from all sports. Her status in an early developing field – and the atypical challenges that come along with being at the forefront – demonstrates the best traits in managing steps towards success.

Her book Playbook for Success: A Hall of Famer’s Business Tactics for Teamwork and Leadership makes a splendid interpretation of those steps for businesswomen as well as an inspiration for those with a sports enthusiast’s heart.

The book focuses on leadership development and establishing teamwork, spiced with Nancy Lieberman’s career moments and personal insights. Nicknamed “Lady Magic” for her basketball prowess – she is also a friend of Magic Johnson – Liberman can certainly offer solid observations on how businesswomen can maneuver to their strengths, particularly in male-dominated fields. She is the first woman to coach a male professional team, the Texas Legends – a NBA development team associated with the Dallas Mavericks.

Some of the tips may be familiar for those who have been in business a while, but do not take my statement as a pejorative one.  Lieberman’s comments strike a down-to-the-basics tone, a reflection of an athlete’s efficient mindset.  You’ll read insights that explain the benefits for those oft-said tips, a particular aid to budding entrepreneurs and young leaders.   See this quote regarding budgeting one’s own time as an example:

“Time management also involves managing your time when you aren’t at work so that you are ready to roll each and every day. “

Lieberman’s spin shows how such tips make an impact over life as well.  She touches on many subjects that women encounter through their professional lives. Here are a few other notable thoughts.

On responsibility: 

“You can’t force people to be responsible if he or she chooses to be unprepared and dodge his or her duties. You can, however, be prepared to manage the morale and complications that are certain to arise because of that one person’s lack of integrity.”

On womens’ health:

“Believe it or not menopause is a major workplace issue these days, and it’s not going away anytime soon. As baby boomers continue to age it is going to become virtually pervasive through at least 2020….Don’t let these biological changes – or any change in life throws at you, for that matter – hinder your performance or how you’re perceived. Instead, prepare, gather knowledge, and understand your situation, so that you can cope with it constructively.”

On taking steps to develop your strategy

“Homework comes in so many different forms these days – about your industry, your competitors, or trends in the market. If you have a feeling a certain strategy might work, research it….Homework also requires that you make phone calls and ask people who’ve walked a similar road what they’ve done in similar situations.”

One fascinating aspect about the book is Lieberman’s choice to seek mentorship from excellent athletes outside of her immediate league, such as in a demonstration with Michael Jordan, and a phone call which leads to a friendship with Muhammed Ali.  Some people may consider it name dropping while reading Playbook for Success, but I say imagine a walk in Lieberman’s shoes. To be an Olympic champion and playing women’s basketball prior to today’s WNBA, you would draw the respect, interests, and private insights from excellent mentors in other fields. That attraction to innovators is always evident, at least from what I’ve read or heard. Lieberman earned that trait, having “done her homework.”  She also makes the reader feel that they can earn that trait, too:

“Honestly, you do not have to be a former player or sports fanatic to learn how to use sports as a tool for winning in your business. Anyone can be a winner by having faith, self-confidence and the correct mind-set.”

Lieberman expresses her persona with a centered awareness.  In the chapter Game Time, she reminds the reader “to enjoy the big wins, but reserve a little humility at the same time.”  There’s also a glossary at the end that connects sports terms to business.   It’s not meant to speak down to anyone who isn’t sports savvy, but as shared thoughts from a basketball maven who grew up playing in the tough pickup games of Harlem’s Rucker Park.

Playbook for Success is not a business process book, but the ideas are flexible to fit your personal approaches to the situation. The ideas also speak to all businesspeople on being competitive when there is no trail established.  To borrow from the sports glossary at the end, the ball is in your court to pick up and read how a true champion in any competition – on field and off – thinks and behaves.

As Lieberman wrote:

“Remember, leaders take people not where they want to go, but where they need to go.”

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Pierre DeBois - Associate Book Editor


Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

2 Reactions

  1. Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a stronger need to get things done and are more willing to take risks than male leaders….Women leaders were also found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts…

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