My Leadership Philosophy

Hello, friends. It’s Matt.


Lately, like many people in these “uncertain times,” I used time to self-reflect.. As somebody that spent a large amount of his graduate school career studying organizational leadership, teaching four semesters at the university level, as well as my aspiration to well— lead organizations— I believe it is important to know what you are about, and to have your own ideas in regards to leadership.

This is based on a combination of past experience as well as research, though I’ve read so many papers in graduate school that they kind of mush together— (perhaps one day I’ll write a more detailed book complete with cited sources and studies)!

I came up with fourteen points that I believe in as a leader, and believe help make a good organization run to its fullest capacity. If you have different ideas, let me know in the comments below! I always welcome feedback and new ideas!

Anyhow—- here is my leadership philosophy.


  • 1. It isn’t about you.
      • When placed in a leadership position, it is your job to place people in positions to succeed. You are a servant.
      • Leadership isn’t “taking people into your system and making them better.”
      • Instead, it is building relationships and trust to the point where everybody is valued and buys into the core philosophies of the organization that you are trying to run.
      • When people are valued emotionally, monetarily, and intellectually– and values align– you’re cooking with gas.
  • 2. Find smart people that share your core values.
      • The most important thing you can do is surround yourself with people that share the same common core values.
      • Ideas on how to achieve goals may differ, but if the core values are there, we can work with that.
  • 3. Hard skills matter—-to an extent.
    • They certainly help in performing job-related duties from the get go!
      • In higher level positions, experience may play a larger role!
    • Long-term, however, the core values matter more. 
      • How do they react when the going gets tough?
      • Do they see the long-term vision of your organization?
      • How do they treat the people around them?
    • Prioritize smart people that share the same core values and have the ability to learn. 
      • One can have both! Ideally, you find someone who shares the core values of your organization, and has the hard skills necessary to do the job well from the get go!
    • Would much rather have to train somebody who I share values with than hire somebody who already has the hard skills, but do not share values with. 
  • 4. Trust your talent (aka let your experts be experts)
      • If you hire somebody because you believe they can do a good job– let them do the things they are good at!
      • Your job is to act as a guide to help them use their talents to the best of their ability in conjunction with your organizational goals— your job is not to do their job for them, or hover over their shoulder 24/7 and stress over every minute detail.
      • Everybody is going to make mistakes. When somebody makes a mistake, you correct it, move on, and continue to let them do their job with confidence. Freedom to make mistakes is just as important as the freedom to use their talents. 
  • 5. A good idea can come from anywhere.
      • It is up to those in power to critically think, dissect, and make decisions based on said ideas. 
      • However, a good idea can come from the perceived bottom, just as it can come from the top. If we wish to be our best, we should make sure good ideas have a way of making it to the top.
      • That being said, there is a time and place for everything. Make sure you set aside time for people to be able to safely share ideas.
        • Example: Office time? Great time to propose ideas.
        • Thirty-second timeout/in the middle of heart surgery? Should focus on best implementing the current plan.
      • Giving people the platform and power to share ideas creates agency among people on your team. It isn’t just “your team,” it is “everybody’s team,” and everybody must feel valued in order to keep the buy in. Once again, knowing the time and place is important.
  • 6. Never operate on the fear of “if they develop too much, they might leave.” EMBRACE IT.
      • You can’t always promote everybody. People are going to leave. It is better to attract talent by being known as a school or company that helps people move up in the world than one that is known for mediocrity. 
      • In a basketball context, if my assistant coaches are moving on to become successful head coaches (or taking a better assistant gig at a larger school), I am doing my job. 
        • On the other hand, If my assistant coaches are constantly moving to take similar roles in similar environments, there is probably something wrong on my end.
    • You should want your “subordinates” to become good enough to take your job.
        • As a competitor, one should welcome new challenges.
        • Operating out of the fear that somebody will take your job is a recipe for mediocrity. 
  • 7. Everybody deserves basic human respect.
      • Correct, but never personally attack.
      • Commend people when they do well, correct when they make mistakes.
        • Never shame people for mistakes.
        • Focus on the mistake, not the person. 
      • When somebody improves and gets better, let them know you notice!
  • 8. Be loving, but demanding (at least relative to compensation/position.)
      • I expect far more out of a basketball player on full scholarship/stipend than somebody volunteering their time.
      • That being said, expect people on all levels to give their best effort in the time that they give.
        • That means if you’re getting 50 hours a week out of somebody, I want 50 great hours.
        • If I’m getting 3 hours a week from a volunteer, then you want 3 of the best hours they can give.
  • 9. They’re more than just employees/players. Show them you care.
      • Talk is nothing without action.
      • Showing you care can include
        • Compensating them well.
        • Helping them prepare for life’s challenges.
          • For instance, if I am coaching college hoops, I want players to be exposed to world of business, etc. Mentorship is important!
          • If they leave as just basketball players, I’ve failed as a coach.
        • Asking people about their lives. Making sure their thoughts are valued.
          • You don’t have to do everything they say, but you have to make sure they know you are taking their thoughts into account.
      • Even if they transfer/move on/do something that is best for them, show them you care.
        • If you do good by your employees and look out for their best interests, you will attract more good employees.
  • 10. No full-time employee should ever have to work a second job to make ends meet.
      • At smaller companies, this may not be possible. At larger businesses, it should be.
        • At that point, one may have to rely on part-time work or consulting.
      • Sometimes that may mean taking pay cuts away at the top. CEOs should be compensated well, but not at expense of lowest paid full-time employees well-being.
        • How can one expect somebody to do a job with demanding hours if they are worrying about making ends meet the next month?
          • Not talking about due to poor financial management. We’re talking because salary relative to cost of living is so low that everything in their life has to go PERFECTLY to not lose money each month.
  • 11. It is important to have a personal life, regardless of industry.
      • Some jobs are going to be more than 40 hours a week. That is a part of life.
      • However, anybody that is in the office at 6:00 AM, then leaves at 10:00 PM every night is sure to burn out, and is not somebody I want on my staff.
        • 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM? Understandable, especially as one is more compensated. (Think assistant coaches, head coaches, executives, etc.)
        • If you can’t manage time well enough to do a great job in those hours, even at the highest levels, you need to get better at it.
      • This also goes back to compensation. It is important to compensate every employee enough to be able to have a personal life when they aren’t working. 
        • You don’t have to make sure they have a lavish lifestyle, but enough to make ends meet, save a bit for retirement, and have a life outside of work.
  • 12. Show that you are human.
      1. Do not act like you cannot do no wrong. 
      2. If you make a mistake that directly affects an employee or player, you apologize to them, and do the best in your power to rectify the situation. 
  • 13. Relationships are important–but keep an open mind.
      • Building trust with the people you go to war with every day— whether it is in the copy room or the basketball court is essential for leadership.
      • Leadership isn’t a position. It is influence mutually decided upon by two or more parties. You have to have legitimacy from the people in order to lead. Permission. 
      • When hiring, a good relationship can open the door— but never guarantee a job to somebody based on a relationship. In the end, your job is to have your organization perform at the highest level.
      • That means have a process that allows opportunity for outside candidates to have a legitimate shot.
        • If ever in a position of power, one may want interview at least one person that they have never met before, as well as a minority and a woman for each position.
        • There are people out there who are terrific at what they do, they just don’t have the opportunity to showcase it!
      • This goes back to core values.
        • When you have strong core values, you have the agency to make an outside-the-box hire and perhaps take a chance on somebody new because by taking the time to get to know them, as well as carefully reviewing recommendations, you can figure out if they align with your culture and organizational goals!
        • When you know what you believe in, you both broaden and narrow your horizons in good ways.
          • You broaden your horizons to be able to accept new people who share your values, which means you have a better chance of finding the “right fit” because you aren’t suffocated by only the people you currently know.
          • On the flipside, you can quickly eliminate people that may have all of the right skills on paper, but do not share your core values and what you want out of your organization.
  • 14. There are exceptions to every rule.
    1. Never be afraid to make exceptions— as long as you can justify them.
    2. Sometimes new situations arise that current rules cannot cover.
      1. That is why we go back full circle to the beginning— relying on core values to help guide your decisions. 

I realize we went a lot of different places in this leadership philosophy. In the end,  if you hold true to your core values, and focus more on the ability to learn, patience, relationship building, and a baseline set of hard skills that help, but don’t always determine destiny, you can build trust and provide great leadership.

It isn’t about you, but knowing what you are about helps guide your decisions, and letting people that you trust do their jobs while helping guide their journey in a position of trust is something that we should all strive for. When people want to do a good job so bad that you don’t have to pester, and when everybody is compensated to the point where they can focus on being the best they can be in a way that also aligns with organizational goals— you have something special.

Once again, if you have any suggestions, different philosophies, or something to add let me know!

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