Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Looking for Leadership? Look No Further Than Dawn Staley

Volume: April 2024


This past Sunday, the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team won  this year’s NCAA Division I championship. It was their second title in three years, and third overall. ALL under the leadership of their coach, Dawn Staley. Now, I do not know coach Staley. However, I am a big fan of hers and a great observer of what I believe makes her and her team successful. The 2024 Lady Gamecocks were the 10th undefeated champion in D1 women’s basketball history. As a tribute, I share what I believe to be are Dawn Staley’s top 10 leadership attributes. 
  1. Gratitude and a Belief in Abundance. After her team’s victory the first words out of Coach Staley’s mouth were an affirmation of her beliefs and a statement about how when one door closes, another opens. This leader believes in abundance and is grateful for what her team has achieved.
  2. Culture. When each of her players were interviewed about their individual and collective success, without exception they referenced the team culture and lack of selfishness that Coach Staley has created. Each player expressed gratitude for the unselfish sense of team.
  3. Balance. No player on the South Carolina team averaged playing more than 28 minutes per game. Each game is 40 minutes. This is a remarkable achievement considering most teams in the country play their starters 37 minutes or more per game. Balance leads to consistency, results, and a lack of burnout.
  4. Involvement. Coach Staley is known to commonly involve parents in her players’ progress, hurdles and opportunities. The parents are not decision-makers, but they are informed and, in a way, are a part of the team.
  5. Sacrifice and Discipline. During her halftime interview, Coach Staley referenced that in the second half of the game her team needed to stay disciplined so they would execute to their best and remain in sync with their game plan. They did just that.
  6. Goes With the Shot. Because of the balance and unselfishness of the South Carolina team, they can feed the ball to whichever teammate is playing the best. In the case of Sunday’s game, that happened to be a freshman player. The ability to have a team that can “go with the shot,” removes pressure from “star” players to always having to carry the load.  
  7. Strategy. You don’t build an incredible culture, strike a winning balance, and create broad swaths of engagement without being strategic. Even when her team was down by 10 points in the opening minutes, Coach Staley was calm and poised. She had a plan and knew that her team would execute.  
  8. Talent. Without question, Coach Staley is a gifted and talented leader. She also seeks to surround herself with the best. She recruits and attracts some of the best female basketball talent in the world. Coach Staley also acknowledged that one of her freshman players is a “generational talent” that may continue to take the women’s game to new heights.
  9. Recognition. Along with acknowledging hard work and dedication of her players, Coach Staley verbalized special recognition of a generational player on the opposing team (Iowa), Caitlin Clark. She personally thanked Caitlin for taking the game of women’s basketball to a new height. It was a classy and authentic moment from Coach Staley.
  10. Celebration. What is not lost by Coach Staley is the need to celebrate victories. When asked by a reporter what is next for her after such a milestone victory, Coach Staley exuberantly exclaimed “I’m goin’ to Disney World!” A nice way to celebrate indeed.  
My admiration for Dawn Staley runs deep. She seeks to build great things – from the inside out. Noble. And worthy of notice and emulation.
Until next time, be well.   
Doug Van Dyke is an executive coach, leadership development expert, teambuilder, strategic planner, and hoops fan. To learn more or have Doug speak at your event contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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