retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Words matter. That’s something that real leaders have to keep in mind, both in good times and in more challenging circumstances.

This was proven yet again in the aftermath of Sunday night’s National Basketball Association (NBA) championship game, in which the Dallas Mavericks defeated the highly touted Miami Heat.

To begin, let’s get one thing out of the way.

I know very little about basketball. Not my sport. I have no three-point shot, I’m not great from the foul line, and I routinely get beaten at “21” by my kids.

But I do have a pretty good ear for whining. (I have, after all, parented three kids.)

The Miami Heat were favored to win the championship since the beginning of the season, mostly because the deck seemed to be stacked in its favor because it has three of the best players in the league - LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat also became the team everybody loved to hate, mostly because James turned his move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Heat into such a narcissistic production.

It was within this context that James, in the past-game press conference, uttered the following sentences:

“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point.”

In other words, I may have lost, but now you all have to go back to your miserable little lives, and I’m going back to a life that is a lot better than yours. So there.

Not a great message to send to basketball fans, even those who are rooting against you.

While I’ve never been one who believes that professional athletes should be seen as role models, I do believe that they have two jobs: 1) win, and 2) create a product that people actually want to root for.

By both measures, LeBron James failed. His words drove that home.

This is something that all business leaders need to think about, even if they are working on a less public stage than most professional athletes. I know CEOs who like to visit stores in luxury cars that cost more than many store employees make in a year, and I know CEOs who visit stores in battered SUVs that are far less ostentatious. There is a clear distinction; some leaders understand that the people on the front lines are the most important component of any success, and some don’t get it.

Perhaps the great Stephen Colbert put it best last night on “The Colbert Report,” when talking about how LeBron James put his foot in his mouth:

Like they say, it's not whether you win or lose, but how you disparage the pathetic lives of the little people who make it possible for you to have a career bouncing an inflatable ball.

That’s an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: