Lessons from Pat Summitt – Leading As Lawyers


When it will come to instructing as a form of management, several supply extra worthwhile lessons than Mentor Pat Summitt.

Michael J. Higdon

Professor of Law and the Affiliate Dean for Faculty Development

University of Tennessee University of Legislation

Proudly shown in my dwelling business is a basketball autographed by Coach Pat Summitt.  Now, this might not audio specially noteworthy—indeed, I imagine there are lots of such basketballs adorning a lot of residences and offices across the place.  If you realized me, on the other hand, you would know it’s pretty odd that I would even own a piece of sporting memorabilia, considerably considerably less depend it between my most prized belongings. The reason stems from the inspiration I have received from Mentor Summitt when it comes to educating as a variety of leadership and, extra specially, the monumental effect a leader can have simply by focusing on the wants of all those she serves. But just before I say additional about that subject, permit me give some history on how I arrived to value this legend in the earth of activity.  

Ideal about now, you may well be contemplating that I, as a school member at The University of Tennessee, chose Coach Summit as the topic of this visitor publish in an attempt to curry favor with “VolNation,” the enthusiastic (to set it mildly) enthusiast base of The University of Tennessee where by Coach Summitt used 30-eight years coaching the Lady Vols to achievements much too quite a few to depend.  Well, you are going to before long alter your brain when you go through what I have to say next.  Namely, when I moved to Knoxville in 2009, I had never even read of Pat Summitt.  And, no, I was not dwelling in a cave somewhere or calling into issue the extent of her celeb outside the point out of Tennessee.  I just have hardly ever been much of a sports supporter and, consequently, am rather oblivious to things associated to that matter.

Even so, 1 are unable to are living in East Tennessee and escape the legacy—richly earned—of Coach Summitt.  Indeed, she is all over the place here—from an genuine statue of her on campus to the numerous people today you cross paths with who will proudly share (typically with tears in their eyes) stories of interactions they as soon as experienced with the woman Sporting activities Illustrated called “a power of mother nature.”  Despite my relative disinterest in sports activities, I am a university student of leadership and am fascinated by individuals who lead successfully. Thus, intrigued by reverence that accompanied all factors associated to Coach Summitt, I made the decision a couple of several years ago that I wished to study extra about her and what had motivated so much admiration amongst such a broad cross-portion of men and women.  I knew she had an extraordinary report of success—indeed, at the time of her retirement, she had the most vocation wins in the history of higher education basketball—but I would shortly study that there was so much much more to this wonderful human currently being.  

I ended up studying a number of guides, viewing quite a few documentaries, and even conversing with people today who experienced worked carefully with her.  What I uncovered was someone had a deep appreciation for leadership (which she outlined as “a kind of short-term authority that other people grant you”) but not as a suggests of profitable, but as an alternative as a usually means of inspiring many others to achieve excellence in their own right.  That, by by itself, was inspiring ample. Having said that, specified that I look at myself to be to start with-and-foremost a trainer, what most struck me most was the way in which she saw her role as a teacher to be merely an extension of her role as chief. To illustrate, look at the next quotes—some of my favorites—from Mentor Summitt: 

  • 1. “The reward of currently being a trainer is to view the widening of young eyes when they experience something new.”

Just one of the factors I adore most about Mentor Summitt is that, in spite of her considerable celeb, she certainly relished her function as a trainer.  And that joy came not from standing in entrance of these young gals and basking in their worship of her (and, let’s be genuine, how could they not worship her?), but from the platform her coaching position gave her to guideline these youthful persons. She noticed her players not as instruments that would support her secure a different NCAA championship, but as men and women who had been searching to boost on their own and required her help. And help she definitely did. Of program, the gamers experienced to place in the get the job done, but she was there to help manual them on their journeys. As Coach Summitt herself said, “I remember how quite a few of them fought for a far better everyday living for themselves. I just achieved them midway.”

  • 2. “I’d realized the solitary most crucial theory of educating: they don’t care how considerably you know except they know how substantially you treatment.” 

When I begun my have profession as a teacher and was apprehensive about falling flat on my experience in front of a roomful of college students, a smart mentor (thank you, Professor Terrill Pollman!) explained to me that college students would forgive pretty much any slip-up if they certainly believed you cared about them and were being invested in their achievements.  It is apparent that Coach Summitt adopted a very similar route.  When she regrettably passed in 2016, countless former gamers arrived forward to explain to stories of how Coach Summitt experienced gone out of her way to get to know and to treatment for them as wholistic human beings.  She was notoriously difficult on her gamers, but she constantly produced certain that they realized that she noticed them and that she cared.  As Coach Summitt once said, “[m]y demandingness was centered in a basic perception that each individual kid experienced likely greatness in her—and they recognized that, because I created it very clear to them.”

  • 3. “When a participant would make a miscalculation, you usually want to place them back in [the game] quickly—you never just berate them and sit them down with no prospect for redemption.” 

For Coach Summitt, profitable and losing have been eclipsed by the individual journeys of the people today she led, and she endeavored to in no way missing sight of that.  This quotation, which worries the will need to give players a opportunity to redeem by themselves, illustrates beautifully that factor of Mentor Summitt’s leadership. Inherent in that philosophy is how, the expertise we as academics convey to our learners means absolutely nothing if it isn’t in the long run becoming handed on individuals pupils in a way that they can wield it for by themselves.  Opportunities for redemption are important to the transfer of expertise, and so is suggestions.  Coach Summitt knew that suggestions was necessary, possessing after mentioned that, “in the absence of feed-back, folks will fill in the blanks with a detrimental.  They will suppose you never treatment about them or really don’t like them.”  I envision handful of men and women have the calls for on their time that Mentor Summitt possible had throughout her career, which tends to make it all the extra admirable that she would acquire the time to make sure that her staff was obtaining the instruction and the comments they essential.  

  • 4. “Winning is impermanent . . . what lingers is not the chilly steel trophy but the feeling of heat exultation you shared with 1 another.”

I close with this quote because it tends to make a single point abundantly and superbly very clear. Underlying Coach Summitt’s whole management philosophy (and, indeed, all the other rates I determined previously mentioned) is the comprehension that management is not about the acquire it is about the interactions and the option a single has as a leader to lift other individuals up.  Coach Summitt considered that, as instructors, the most enduring legacy we can create is through all those we support and inspire along the way.  As somebody who life in East Tennessee and is on a regular basis confronted with the reverence that carries on to exist for Coach Summitt, she has absolutely proven herself appropriate on that score.

When it will come to instructing as a type of leadership, couple give a lot more worthwhile lessons than Coach Pat Summitt.  Indeed, for all that Mentor Summitt has taught me, and in spite of my relative ignorance of all things athletics-associated, I now consider myself a large supporter of her get the job done and her wide legacy.  As I continue on on my individual journey as a teacher, I keep that autographed basketball as a supply of inspiration for the tasks and, extra importantly, the abundant management chances that occur with that part.


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