4 Lin-sane Leadership Lessons

In business terms, Jeremy Lin is the underdog that took on the 800 pound gorilla and won. Here’s what entrepreneurs can learn from him.

Lin-sanity, they call it. On Sunday, February 20, the Knicks played the defending-champion Dallas Mavericks. Jeremy Lin was again on fire, scoring 28 points with 14 assists and five steals, and leading the Knicks to a 104 to 97 win. In business terms, we could think of Lin as the start-up that has the determination, drive, and ingenuity to take on the 800 pound gorillas in its market — and win.

After all, as recently as January 4, Lin had posted this to his Facebook page: “Everytime i try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if I’m a trainer LOL”

Every once in a while somebody like Lin comes along and defies all the stereotypes. They deliver in such a spectacular and graceful way that you can’t help but admire them. How has this young man inspired so many in such a short time? And as business leaders, what can we learn from him?

Passion and drive trump genetics and environment. What’s the NBA-sized goal for your business — and do you have the drive to get there? Nobody ever expected Jeremy Lin to become a world-famous basketball player. Yet he was determined,and patient, against remarkable odds. His parents are of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, both 5 feet 6 inches tall. Lin managed to graduate from high school without being offered any athletic scholarships, and didn’t make the All-Ivy League First Team until his senior year at Harvard. Against all odds, he worked hard and never gave up on his dream of playing in the NBA.

Maintain focus.  Despite all the Lin-sanity, Jeremy has not been distracted by the hype and attention, at least so far. He remains humble and spiritual. After a loss to the Hornets, Jeremy posted, “gotta learn from my mistakes and move on to the next one.” He’s always focused on improving his game, working with special coaches to hone the style of shooting that lets him drop a three-pointer over Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki—who towers over Lin by nine inches.

At Harvard and even now, Lin has heard bigoted jeers about his Asian heritage. Believe it or not, ESPN used the headline “Chink in the Armor” on its mobile site after Lin had nine turnovers in New York’s loss to the Hornets. “I don’t think it was on purpose or whatever, but they have apologized and so from my end I don’t care anymore,” Lin said in a TV interview. For entrepreneurs, the lesson is clear: Never let ignorant non-believers get in your way.

Share the glory. Jeremy is not only humble, he’s very smart. Despite all his talent he’s the first to recognize the importance of a team. As an entrepreneur, you may be fortunate enough to be singled out for your success. It’s critical to recognize the people who enable your success and keep it on track every day.

Lin’s a generous player who makes his teammates better, sharing the ball and the glory. “This team is so unselfish and has so much heart,” he posted on Facebook. “Love playing with them!” Does your team know how much you love playing and working with them, too?

Avoid personal fouls.  In business it’s tempting to charge ahead recklessly. Many professional athletes disrespect their opponents, bad-mouthing them and throwing their weight around. But Jeremy plays with focused determination, a team approach, and a humble and passionate nature — the same characteristics that inspire customers and employees. Now I’m no basketball player — and a few inches shy of 6 foot 3 — but I do know smart business owners can achieve amazing feats of success when they play heads-up ball.


René Shimada Siegel is Founder and President of High Tech Connect, a specialized consultant placement firm for marketing and communications experts. You can follow her on twitter at @renesiegel.

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