Billy Donovan is a great leader, and the basketball team he coaches—the Florida Gators—is projected to make it to the 2014 Final Four. No surprise. When I see him on the sideline, I see a leadership style and process that any sales manager can learn from. Billy Donovan, only 48 years old, is already the second-winningest coach in the Southeastern Conference history. He’s been Florida’s head coach since age 30, and won two national championships (2006-2007). Bottom line is that he delivers over and over under pressure, on a team that changes every season.
Here are four leadership tips based on what I’ve observed in Donovan the last decade, part of which was spent representing him as his agent:
- Clarity is never a problem for Donovan. He’s a Long Island guy at heart, and his players and inner circle know that he has no problem telling them exactly where they stand. There’s no ambiguity in Donovan’s leadership, and that gives his players a strong sense of security. They feed off his confidence. Consistent clarity builds credibility and forms a strong bond of trust.
- Donovan is all about team, not individual talent. His players all aren’t cherry-picked based on their high school recruiting rankings. They are generally not NBA first-round picks. Instead, Donovan has an eye for the right mix of players who will play and stay together—and win national titles.
- He operates with urgency. Those close to Donovan know that he does not mess around. If something needs fixing or his attention, he gets to it and gets it done. This extends from the way he runs his practices, to his game coaching, to recruiting, and every aspect of his program. Urgency telegraphs to everyone around him that their collective success is of utmost importance to him—and should be to them as well.
- He values loyalty. This trait has kept him at Florida all these years. He has a strong relationship with athletic director Jeremy Foley, and that carries into his connections with his players and the university administration. At Florida, the feeling of team is more like a feeling of family. If urgency creates a fire, loyalty creates lasting warmth.
Several media outlets have reported a long extension of Donovan’s contract. Makes perfect sense: what college wouldn’t want to keep a coach who demonstrates credibility, reliability and connection in such a powerful way? For all you sales executives watching March Madness, I wish you luck on your brackets. Look past the score and study the skills of Donovan and other coaches. They can teach us what successful leadership looks like, especially under intense competitive pressure.
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.