WMU News

WMU expert says March Madness offers valuable lessons in leadership

March 26, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- The skillful moves of basketball players have filled the airwaves during March Madness, but a Western Michigan University expert says behind those teams are a number of successful coaches with valuable insight for many outside the world of sports.

Dr. Edward J. Mayo, WMU professor of marketing, has studied the leadership styles of effective coaches and has identified a dozen common characteristics found among the most winning coaches in sports. Among them he cites extreme attention to detail, repetition, enormous enthusiasm, marvelous teaching and a commitment to excellence. These skills, he says, could easily be translated to the classroom or boardroom.

"They stress setting a standard and performing to that standard regardless of the competition," he explains. "So, if you're a General Motors or a Ford, you're not worried about what the other automakers are doing. You're saying, 'Let's build the best possible car we can and if we do that we'll sell a lot of cars, we'll get good market share, things will fall into place.'"

With individualistic players like Dennis Rodman and larger than life stars like Michael Jordan, Mayo admits that some of the boot camp procedures of years past may not work in today's coaching environment. He says the best coaches are those who continually adapt to the changing cultural and social environment of their players.

"They're having to listen better to these young people and adapt to their personality and the times," he says. "Nevertheless, the successful ones are still those coaches who are able to push their young athletes to achieve 100 percent of their potential. They focus on their team's potential and how close they can get to achieving it."

While many of the effective coaches Mayo cites are men, he says the growing prominence of women's sports will increase the number of female role models in the coaching ranks. But he says the concepts are already useful to women in business and in the classroom.

"These are not sport issues," he says. "They are issues about how you achieve your potential, how you manage your time, how you get people in the organization around you to commit to excellence, how you take enthusiasm for a project and transmit that to people around you so that they are as excited about doing as good a job as possible."

Mayo can be reached at his office at (616) 387-6101. For assistance in contacting him, or if you're looking for an expert on another topic, contact Julie Paavola, WMU Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, at (616) 387-8413.

Media contact: Julie Paavola; julie.paavols@wmich.edu


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