Baylor University’s decisive win in the NCAA basketball finals last night is a stellar example of what I call “long view leadership.”
Living just a short drive from Baylor’s hometown of Waco, I naturally was quite interested in how they would perform in the championship match-up. As the nation watched, many amazing things played out on the floor.
To me as a leadership coach, however, the most amazing aspect of the evening was not something which occurred on the court. It was the “long view leadership” of Baylor’s coach, Scott Drew.
Eighteen years ago, when he came to Baylor, the men’s basketball team was a walkover. Yet he announced in his first press conference that his goal was to take Baylor to a national championship. For the next few years, Baylor would not even have a winning season, much less a post-season spot in the NCAA playoffs.
But Scott was undeterred. He knew that rebuilding the program would take years. The path to the top would make only small and incremental steps for years to come. But he made each step with his eye firmly fixed on the goal which reached fruition last night.
Such long view leadership is in terribly short supply today. Corporate leadership, in particular, measures success by quarterly earnings and near-term outcomes. Pressure for leaders to think short term also comes from investors, the stock market, and the board of directors.
In Scott Drew’s case, he was not the only long view leader on the campus. The athletic department and the administration continued to forebear as he painstakingly, year by year, toward the ultimate goal. So did the fans.
They remind us that long view leadership is a community undertaking. Our greatest economic competitors in the world are increasingly Asian. If Asia in general — and China in particular — are noted for anything, it’s long-term thinking. We think in time frames of weeks, quarters, and years. They think in time frames of generations.
We can only hope that our short-term view of setting goals and pursuing them will not make us needlessly vulnerable to nations who always kept their attention fixed on the long view. We do have thinkers and leaders who focus on the long view. Unfortunately, they are not surrounded by a culture and community which share their mindset. Our collective memory is so short that last week’s news is old news.
Long view leadership is not splashy. It’s not given to spectacular results — at least, not until its end goal is met. Only then do people grasp how exceptional the journey was for those who rallied around long view leadership.