You gotta hand it to Rick Pitino. In the few years he's been president of the Boston Celtics and the team's head coach, he hasn't led them back to anything remotely resembling their former success--and yet most of the examples and anecdotes he employs in Lead to Succeed
concern his dealings with that very team. You can look at that refusal to play down his time with the Celts as a bold assertion that true success is measured in modest increments and not in stats and profits alone. But then again... would Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, and Elaine May collaborate on a book called Lead to Succeed at the Box Office
and then spend the whole time talking about Ishtar
As it happens, most of the real-life scenarios Pitino uses to illustrate crucial leadership traits--like having a concrete vision; building a "team ego"; acting with integrity, decisiveness, flexibility, and consistency; maintaining focus and discipline; and acting selflessly--are taken, not inappropriately, from his experiences in college-level and professional basketball, which means the book will probably resonate most with those who follow hoops. But Pitino fails to break new ground in his choice of the nonbasketball figures he profiles, bouncing from Abe Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II to Steve Jobs and Moses (who, Pitino quips, not only led well but "had a pretty good boss" himself). The few women you'll find cited here, such as Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir, don't exactly conjure up images of a warm and fuzzy earth mother.
That said, you can't say Pitino doesn't have a clearly defined vision of good leadership, because he does--and his vision definitely falls on the old-school side, with a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility, self-discipline, a strong work ethic, and humility. He seems to see his role as Celtics coach as more disciplinarian than New Age nurturer, and indeed the majority of his Celtics vignettes recount how he brought an ornery, pouting, preening, or spotlight-hogging player (he seems to have a particular beef with standout player Antoine Walker) into line with his tough-love leadership. You also can't fault him for the unswerving, blunt-as-potatoes wisdom and experience he shares on such universally respected leadership traits as putting the team before the individual, total honesty, refusal to delegate the dirty work to anyone else, keeping one's word, and good old-fashioned scrappiness. "You have to stick to it," Pitino concludes in this B-ball-centric but honorable and serviceable guide for leaders of all sorts. And he's the first to admit he means that as much for his leadership position as anyone else's. Say what you will about the Celts, you gotta give the guy credit for that. --Timothy Murphy
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