Guest post by Stephen M.R. Covey and Greg Link
The personal congruence that leads to self-trust instills in us the confidence and credibility to inspire others. The two of us have seen countless examples of leaders—many times informal ones—who reach inside themselves, rise to the occasion, and turn the tide in leading a team or organization.
One of the more inspiring stories we recall to illustrate this point is from the NBA basketball championship series of 1980. The Los Angeles Lakers led the Philadelphia 76ers three games to two in a best-of-seven series. The Lakers’ star player, seven-foot, two-inch center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, had severely sprained his ankle in game five and would not be traveling with the team to Philadelphia for game six in the hope that he could heal enough to play in game seven, if necessary.
An unlikely hero presented himself in the form of a nineteen-year-old rookie just drafted from Michigan State University, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Johnson sensed fear and hopelessness in his more experienced and somewhat jaded teammates, who had relied on Kareem for the entire season and had just watched him miraculously score fourteen points in the fourth quarter on a badly sprained ankle to win game five.
In the words of coach Pat Riley, as recorded in Tell to Win by Peter Guber, when Johnson heard his teammates say they were going to lose, he said, “I know what the problem is. All you guys are afraid because Kareem isn’t here. Well, I’ll be Kareem.”
Riley continued, “We get on the plane for Philadelphia, and 1A is Kareem’s seat. Even when he was sick, nobody ever sat in 1A. He’d put a sign there: Don’t sit in my seat. I’m Kareem. But Magic sat in his seat and said, ‘Hey, I’m Kareem. I’m here.’ ”
According to the NBA encyclopedia: Johnson’s confidence lifted his team’s spirits, and then he backed it up with one of the most remarkable games in NBA Playoff history. He began by jumping the opening tap in Abdul-Jabbar’s place, then went on to play every position on the floor at one time or another, from his customary point guard role to Abdul-Jabbar’s pivot spot. Johnson scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and handed out 7 assists as the Lakers stunned the 76ers 123-107 to clinch the first of his five NBA championships.
After the game, he looked into the TV cameras and sent a message to Abdul-Jabbar back in his Bel-Air home: “This one’s for you, Big Fella!”
Magic’s confidence was not about himself; it was about his desire to rise to the occasion and draw on his trust in his own character and competence to inspire his team. As Guber commented, “The irony is, Earvin Johnson’s greatest act of magic was the story he told to move his team into believing he was their hero. It was a pretty gutsy story for a rookie, but he pulled it off because he knew he was up to the role and because his ultimate goal was to benefit them all.”
That Johnson’s character and competence typified him over time is evidenced in a New York Times article written eleven years later: “Magic Johnson gained the respect of many because, among other things, he devoted much of his off-the-court time to raising money for charities. On the court, he kept making himself better in his profession, no matter how good he got. And that, too, seemed to indicate the heart and mind of the man.”
To be clear, self-trust is not ego, arrogance, or unwarranted bravado. It’s a quiet inner confidence that reflects our awareness of the most important kind of prosperity we will ever have—a high balance in our own personal trust account. And whatever our current balance (or the balance of our team or organization) may be, the good news is that we can increase it significantly by making regular deposits through behaviors that both develop and demonstrate character and competence.
About the Authors
Stephen M.R. Covey is the New York Times bestselling author of The Speed of Trust. Greg Link is co-founder of The Covey Leadership Center. The two orchestrated the strategy that led Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to be one of the bestselling business books of the 20th Century.
The above story is excerpted from their new book, Smart Trust: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World. Great book!
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"John Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Books was instrumental to our success in making The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People one of the two most influential business books of the 20th century." - Stephen M. R. Covey and Greg Link, authors of Smart Trust
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& B&N. What can we say?? Thanks seems so insufficient. How's
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you. Well, you rocked our world anyway!
"Please, please keep advocating trust. Together we can trigger a global
renaissance of trust and shift the trajectory of life and leadership for
generations to come." - In gratitude, Greg Link and Stephen M. R.
Covey, co-authors of Smart Trust