I watched with fascination the “Linsanity” that was the focus of global television, newspaper, and social media coverage for the past couple of months. After Jeremy Lin – a previously-overlooked New York Knicks point guard – scored 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers during a February 10 game, “Linsanity” took the world by storm. The phrase, which combines Lin’s last name and the word “insanity,” has come to stand for shifting from being an overlooked asset to breaking records and being seen as a talent sensation.
Now, Lin – a Taiwanese immigrant to the U.S. – has made history. As the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and achieve seven assists in each of his first four starting games, he’s now the second highest scoring player in league history over a period of four game starts and drumroll … Nike has even launched a new shoe design named after him.
Think about it: A little over two months ago, the idea of Nike designing a shoe that celebrates Jeremy Lin was incomprehensible. In his few games with the team, Lin hadn’t scored very much. He hadn’t even stepped onto the court for 13 of the Knicks’ first 22 match-ups. He was sleeping on his brother’s couch at night, multiple teams had dropped him from their potential player list, and he was playing in the NBA’s “D-league.”
Then, of course, in the span of one 48-minute game, Lin became a worldwide phenomenon – the latest poster child for underdogs everywhere.
So, how does this “Linsanity” apply toward building a brand for yourself as a leader at work?
Where’s the Talent?
How many Jeremy Lins might you have in your own company right now? An important part of being a good leader is recognizing currently-untapped talent, sniffing out and cultivating previously-perceived “underdogs” at work.
Take a look around: Who on your team hasn’t yet been fully leveraged, and who isn’t completely expressing his/her talents? Who on your team hasn’t yet had a chance to “step onto the court” but could potentially perform brilliantly if given the chance?
If you’re like a lot of leaders I know, you may be thinking, “I can’t delegate to most people on my team because they just aren’t ready,” or “I don’t think so-and-so is up to the task yet, so I’ll just do that work myself.” When you think that way, you end up (1) increasing your own work load, and (2) holding back some of your most gifted people, never allowing them to rise to the occasion.
And, of course, if your team isn’t ready to step up to the plate and take ownership, whose responsibility is it to make sure they get ready? I’m sure the New York Knicks coaches saw to it that Jeremy Lin got ready. While they probably couldn’t have predicted Lin’s mind-blowing performance in February, you can be sure they didn’t put him on the court without intensive training.
It’s the same with your team. You can’t expect employees to automatically succeed without the opportunities to practice and grow.
Of course, once Jeremy was trained and ready enough, the coach had to be willing to give him a chance and put him on the court. What opportunities for “practice” on the job can you give your team members? Who among you do you think could perform well if given the right coaching and opportunities?
Find ways to apply the lessons of “Linsanity” at work and strengthen your leadership personal brand in the process. There’s always an element of risk, but the rewards – as Jeremy Lin has proven – can be great. That’s what leadership is all about.