5 Game-Changing Leadership Lessons – Steph Curry Style

For this article by Jo Ilfeld, Executive Leadership Coach on leadship lesson Steph Curry style, the image two hands holding a basketball.

This article originally appeared in Forbes

I’m a huge Warriors fan. During the 20-ish years I’ve lived in Oakland, they have risen from a forgotten team to 4-time NBA Champions playing with 2-time-time NBA MVP, Steph Curry. Having watched Steph Curry play over the last decade it’s been amazing to witness his journey as a player, and as a leader.

As I watched the Warriors play the Lakers this month (sadly a close loss for us), I started thinking about what you, as a leader, can learn from the way Steph Curry leads the Warriors.

Leadership often means stepping to the forefront but leaders don’t always have to lead from the front. What I admire about Steph Curry is his versatile leadership style, he navigates leading and guiding from many different positions, not just one. 

5 Game-Changing Leadership Lessons – Steph Curry Style:

1) He gives back to his community in a meaningful way. 
Steph and his wife Ayesha Curry founded the Eat.Learn.Play. foundation which is both Oakland-based and focused on Oakland children to make sure they have the building blocks of healthy food, access to learning, and opportunities to play and grow. In 2021 they gave away almost 10 million dollars to different programs focused in these areas. This is a superstar who is using his voice and wealth to make a meaningful difference in his adopted hometown of Oakland. A non-profit I worked with has been supported by this foundation and I can tell you that they provide more than just financial support, truly investing in their partner organizations to more successfully serve the children of Oakland. As leaders it’s wise to understand that you voice and visibility can lift up others. Are there causes or values that matter to you where your leadership can give them a bigger voice? I’ve seen many clients give back to communities they care about by leading ERG (employee resource groups) at work.

2) He doesn’t hide his emotions.
Many leaders still believe that leadership means being objective and not letting your personal feelings show. I don’t agree. People are looking for leaders who have authentic feelings, feel excited about their work, and inspire a similar authenticity and passion in others. Whether the refs make a “good” or “bad” call, you can look at Steph’s face and see exactly what he thinks about it. He’s passionate and real. Yet it’s rare for Steph to get emotional to the level of “unsportsmanlike conduct” to get a technical foul (only 5 in the 2023 season). He has mastered the skill of displaying his emotions without losing his cool and going overboard.

3) He delegates for team success. 
Although Steph is arguably one of the best shooters ever in the NBA, during key games where he is usually double-teamed, he knows how to pass the ball advantageously, getting 12 assists alone in the Game 4 Warriors-Lakers playoff game. As all leaders quickly realize, not only is it impossible to do it all alone, but the longer you try to take on the most responsibility on the team, the more you limit what’s possible for your team. As the pressure intensifies on Steph, he finds unbelievable ways to pass the buck (or ball in this case) to his teammates so they can succeed together.

4) He celebrates the little victories.
I love watching Steph pound his chest, raise his hands in victory and nod to the crowds in the stands. Even when the Warriors are down, Steph finds a way to celebrate his shots, especially his 3-pointers, even when they don’t win the game. The road to success is long and seemingly endless, if you can’t find ways to celebrate your wins and your team’s wins, you’re missing an opportunity to find and fully uptake those noteworthy moments. And it matters. People are burnt out more than ever in the workplace, so help them find what’s going well and acknowledge their progress – research shows it makes the journey itself much more rewarding.

5) He knows what’s going on around him.
In basketball it’s called good court sense and Steph has it in spades. I was amazed how he would be running and looking fully ahead and then out of nowhere pass the ball to a player out of view on his left. And the passes were perfect. Leaders need to widen their perspective so that they don’t just understand about their function, their team, but they’re also aware of what the pressures are in different places in their org. It’s hard to pass well on cross-functional initiatives if you don’t know where the people are that you need to coordinate with. It’s not enough to just monitor your responsibilities, you need to have the “org-sense” to know the layout of what’s happening all around you in your organization, and in your industry. 

To be sure, like every leader, Steph Curry’s leadership style is not perfect. There is always room for improvement. Yet to be in the constant spotlight like Steph Curry is, and still maintain his capacity for growth and development is something we can all aspire to emulate in our own leadership journey. 

Want more basketball analogies: Managing Workplace Outbursts: Is It a Draymond Green Moment?

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Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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