Lessons from Pat Summitt – Leading As Lawyers


When it arrives to instructing as a kind of leadership, several offer you much more useful classes than Coach Pat Summitt.

Michael J. Higdon

Professor of Regulation and the Affiliate Dean for School Development

College of Tennessee Higher education of Law

Proudly shown in my residence place of work is a basketball autographed by Mentor Pat Summitt.  Now, this may perhaps not audio specially noteworthy—indeed, I visualize there are quite a few such basketballs adorning many properties and places of work throughout the place.  If you knew me, nonetheless, you would know it’s very odd that I would even own a piece of sporting memorabilia, much fewer rely it among the my most prized belongings. The explanation stems from the inspiration I have gained from Coach Summitt when it arrives to educating as a variety of management and, far more particularly, the great impression a leader can have just by focusing on the needs of people she serves. But before I say more about that matter, enable me give some track record on how I came to take pleasure in this legend in the earth of activity.  

Right about now, you could be contemplating that I, as a faculty member at The University of Tennessee, selected Mentor Summit as the subject of this guest post in an endeavor to curry favor with “VolNation,” the enthusiastic (to place it mildly) lover foundation of The College of Tennessee where Coach Summitt invested 30-eight years coaching the Woman Vols to achievements as well many to depend.  Well, you’ll before long adjust your brain when you go through what I have to say subsequent.  Namely, when I moved to Knoxville in 2009, I had by no means even listened to of Pat Summitt.  And, no, I was not living in a cave somewhere or contacting into issue the extent of her celebrity exterior the point out of Tennessee.  I just have in no way been a great deal of a sports activities admirer and, thus, am fairly oblivious to issues similar to that subject.

However, a single simply cannot stay in East Tennessee and escape the legacy—richly earned—of Coach Summitt.  Indeed, she is everywhere here—from an true statue of her on campus to the many people today you cross paths with who will proudly share (frequently with tears in their eyes) stories of interactions they at the time had with the woman Sports activities Illustrated called “a power of character.”  Despite my relative disinterest in athletics, I am a college student of management and am fascinated by people who direct correctly. So, intrigued by reverence that accompanied all issues relevant to Mentor Summitt, I made a decision a handful of decades ago that I desired to find out much more about her and what had inspired so a great deal admiration amid these a broad cross-portion of folks.  I understood she experienced an impressive history of success—indeed, at the time of her retirement, she experienced the most vocation wins in the historical past of school basketball—but I would soon master that there was so substantially more to this astounding human getting.  

I ended up reading a range of guides, seeing many documentaries, and even chatting with persons who had worked intently with her.  What I located was anyone had a deep appreciation for management (which she defined as “a kind of short-term authority that other individuals grant you”) but not as a means of profitable, but as an alternative as a signifies of inspiring others to reach excellence in their own ideal.  That, by alone, was inspiring sufficient. Nevertheless, specified that I take into consideration myself to be 1st-and-foremost a teacher, what most struck me most was the way in which she observed her purpose as a teacher to be merely an extension of her role as leader. To illustrate, take into account the pursuing quotes—some of my favorites—from Coach Summitt: 

  • 1. “The reward of staying a teacher is to view the widening of young eyes when they knowledge one thing new.”

A person of the things I like most about Coach Summitt is that, inspite of her sizeable celeb, she absolutely relished her role as a teacher.  And that joy arrived not from standing in front of these young gals and basking in their worship of her (and, let’s be honest, how could they not worship her?), but from the platform her coaching role gave her to guideline these youthful people. She noticed her players not as applications that would enable her protected one more NCAA championship, but as people today who were wanting to boost them selves and essential her aid. And assist she undoubtedly did. Of class, the gamers experienced to set in the work, but she was there to support manual them on their journeys. As Coach Summitt herself claimed, “I keep in mind how many of them fought for a improved everyday living for by themselves. I just fulfilled them halfway.”

  • 2. “I’d learned the single most important basic principle of training: they really do not treatment how a great deal you know except they know how a great deal you care.” 

When I begun my personal profession as a teacher and was worried about falling flat on my confront in front of a roomful of pupils, a wise mentor (thank you, Professor Terrill Pollman!) told me that college students would forgive nearly any oversight if they really thought you cared about them and were invested in their success.  It is obvious that Mentor Summitt adopted a comparable route.  When she unfortunately handed in 2016, a great number of previous gamers arrived forward to notify stories of how Coach Summitt had long gone out of her way to get to know and to care for them as wholistic human beings.  She was notoriously hard on her gamers, but she generally made positive that they knew that she noticed them and that she cared.  As Coach Summitt as soon as explained, “[m]y demandingness was based in a basic sense that each and every child experienced prospective greatness in her—and they comprehended that, for the reason that I made it obvious to them.”

  • 3. “When a player can make a blunder, you always want to place them back in [the game] quickly—you really do not just berate them and sit them down with no possibility for redemption.” 

For Mentor Summitt, winning and losing were eclipsed by the particular journeys of the people she led, and she endeavored to hardly ever misplaced sight of that.  This estimate, which concerns the will need to give gamers a opportunity to redeem themselves, illustrates flawlessly that element of Mentor Summitt’s leadership. Inherent in that philosophy is how, the know-how we as lecturers deliver to our college students means nothing at all if it isn’t in the long run currently being passed on all those college students in a way that they can wield it for on their own.  Opportunities for redemption are essential to the transfer of information, and so is opinions.  Coach Summitt realized that feedback was critical, getting after explained that, “in the absence of responses, people today will fill in the blanks with a damaging.  They will presume you don’t care about them or do not like them.”  I visualize couple of folks have the calls for on their time that Mentor Summitt possible had in the course of her job, which can make it all the additional admirable that she would take the time to make sure that her crew was acquiring the instruction and the feedback they necessary.  

  • 4. “Winning is impermanent . . . what lingers is not the chilly metallic trophy but the emotion of warm exultation you shared with one yet another.”

I close with this quotation because it helps make just one issue abundantly and superbly obvious. Fundamental Mentor Summitt’s whole leadership philosophy (and, in truth, all the other quotes I discovered over) is the comprehending that leadership isn’t about the earn it’s about the interactions and the chance one particular has as a leader to carry some others up.  Coach Summitt believed that, as instructors, the most enduring legacy we can create is by people we assist and inspire along the way.  As an individual who life in East Tennessee and is consistently confronted with the reverence that continues to exist for Mentor Summitt, she has unquestionably established herself correct on that rating.

When it comes to training as a type of leadership, several offer you much more important lessons than Coach Pat Summitt.  Indeed, for all that Coach Summitt has taught me, and despite my relative ignorance of all items sports activities-associated, I now look at myself a enormous lover of her operate and her wide legacy.  As I proceed on my personal journey as a instructor, I continue to keep that autographed basketball as a resource of inspiration for the obligations and, more importantly, the prosperous leadership alternatives that come with that job.


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