June 10, 2023


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Lessons from Pat Summitt – Leading As Lawyers

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When it arrives to teaching as a form of management, couple of provide far more worthwhile classes than Mentor Pat Summitt.

Michael J. Higdon

Professor of Regulation and the Affiliate Dean for Faculty Advancement

College of Tennessee School of Law

Proudly exhibited in my residence business office is a basketball autographed by Coach Pat Summitt.  Now, this might not sound specially noteworthy—indeed, I envision there are lots of this kind of basketballs adorning quite a few properties and offices across the state.  If you knew me, nevertheless, you would know it’s rather odd that I would even own a piece of sporting memorabilia, significantly a lot less count it among the my most prized belongings. The reason stems from the inspiration I have obtained from Coach Summitt when it arrives to instructing as a form of management and, much more particularly, the great impact a leader can have just by focusing on the needs of these she serves. But right before I say extra about that subject matter, permit me offer some qualifications on how I arrived to take pleasure in this legend in the world of sport.  

Ideal about now, you could possibly be pondering that I, as a school member at The University of Tennessee, selected Coach Summit as the subject of this guest write-up in an endeavor to curry favor with “VolNation,” the enthusiastic (to set it mildly) fan base of The College of Tennessee in which Coach Summitt spent thirty-eight a long time coaching the Girl Vols to achievements too many to count.  Well, you will soon modify your brain when you go through what I have to say future.  Namely, when I moved to Knoxville in 2009, I had under no circumstances even listened to of Pat Summitt.  And, no, I was not dwelling in a cave someplace or contacting into problem the extent of her celeb exterior the condition of Tennessee.  I just have by no means been a great deal of a athletics supporter and, as a result, am pretty oblivious to points relevant to that subject.

Nevertheless, a person can not stay in East Tennessee and escape the legacy—richly earned—of Mentor Summitt.  Indeed, she is just about everywhere here—from an genuine statue of her on campus to the numerous men and women you cross paths with who will proudly share (usually with tears in their eyes) tales of interactions they when experienced with the woman Sports Illustrated called “a pressure of mother nature.”  Despite my relative disinterest in sports, I am a student of leadership and am fascinated by all those who direct successfully. So, intrigued by reverence that accompanied all items related to Mentor Summitt, I made the decision a couple of a long time back that I preferred to study much more about her and what experienced influenced so much admiration among the this sort of a wide cross-segment of people today.  I knew she experienced an spectacular history of success—indeed, at the time of her retirement, she experienced the most job wins in the record of higher education basketball—but I would quickly find out that there was so a great deal far more to this awesome human staying.  

I ended up studying a selection of guides, viewing various documentaries, and even speaking with persons who had labored closely with her.  What I discovered was another person experienced a deep appreciation for management (which she described as “a form of short-term authority that many others grant you”) but not as a signifies of successful, but rather as a signifies of inspiring other people to realize excellence in their possess right.  That, by alone, was inspiring more than enough. Nevertheless, presented that I consider myself to be to start with-and-foremost a trainer, what most struck me most was the way in which she noticed her role as a trainer to be just an extension of her part as chief. To illustrate, contemplate the next quotes—some of my favorites—from Coach Summitt: 

  • 1. “The reward of staying a trainer is to observe the widening of younger eyes when they experience some thing new.”

A single of the matters I like most about Coach Summitt is that, despite her sizeable movie star, she certainly relished her function as a teacher.  And that joy arrived not from standing in front of these younger girls and basking in their worship of her (and, let us be genuine, how could they not worship her?), but from the platform her coaching job gave her to guideline these youthful men and women. She noticed her players not as applications that would assist her protected one more NCAA championship, but as people who were hunting to increase by themselves and necessary her help. And assist she absolutely did. Of study course, the players had to place in the operate, but she was there to aid information them on their journeys. As Mentor Summitt herself said, “I don’t forget how a lot of of them fought for a better lifestyle for on their own. I just fulfilled them halfway.”

  • 2. “I’d realized the one most essential theory of teaching: they really do not care how considerably you know except if they know how much you treatment.” 

When I started off my very own job as a teacher and was anxious about falling flat on my encounter in front of a roomful of college students, a wise mentor (thank you, Professor Terrill Pollman!) told me that students would forgive practically any error if they genuinely thought you cared about them and ended up invested in their results.  It is apparent that Mentor Summitt followed a identical path.  When she sadly handed in 2016, numerous former gamers came forward to notify stories of how Coach Summitt had long gone out of her way to get to know and to care for them as wholistic human beings.  She was notoriously rough on her players, but she normally produced absolutely sure that they understood that she noticed them and that she cared.  As Coach Summitt after mentioned, “[m]y demandingness was based in a basic feeling that each kid experienced likely greatness in her—and they recognized that, for the reason that I designed it clear to them.”

  • 3. “When a participant will make a mistake, you constantly want to set them back again in [the game] quickly—you really don’t just berate them and sit them down with no possibility for redemption.” 

For Coach Summitt, profitable and losing have been eclipsed by the private journeys of the men and women she led, and she endeavored to by no means misplaced sight of that.  This quote, which considerations the want to give gamers a possibility to redeem on their own, illustrates flawlessly that aspect of Coach Summitt’s management. Inherent in that philosophy is how, the knowledge we as lecturers convey to our college students suggests very little if it isn’t eventually getting passed on these college students in a way that they can wield it for themselves.  Opportunities for redemption are key to the transfer of expertise, and so is responses.  Coach Summitt understood that opinions was vital, obtaining the moment stated that, “in the absence of responses, individuals will fill in the blanks with a damaging.  They will presume you really don’t care about them or do not like them.”  I picture number of people today have the calls for on their time that Mentor Summitt likely experienced all through her job, which tends to make it all the far more admirable that she would get the time to assure that her team was acquiring the instruction and the responses they essential.  

  • 4. “Winning is impermanent . . . what lingers is not the cold metallic trophy but the emotion of warm exultation you shared with a single a different.”

I close with this quotation since it will make a person level abundantly and superbly distinct. Fundamental Coach Summitt’s overall management philosophy (and, without a doubt, all the other quotes I identified over) is the knowing that management is not about the win it is about the interactions and the option one particular has as a leader to raise many others up.  Coach Summitt thought that, as instructors, the most enduring legacy we can establish is via those we support and encourage along the way.  As an individual who life in East Tennessee and is consistently confronted with the reverence that continues to exist for Mentor Summitt, she has certainly established herself suitable on that score.

When it arrives to teaching as a variety of management, couple of give additional useful classes than Coach Pat Summitt.  Indeed, for all that Coach Summitt has taught me, and despite my relative ignorance of all factors athletics-associated, I now take into consideration myself a large lover of her operate and her extensive legacy.  As I proceed on my own journey as a teacher, I preserve that autographed basketball as a resource of inspiration for the duties and, additional importantly, the prosperous leadership opportunities that arrive with that purpose.


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