Leading by Following


I played basketball for 3 years in college. During my senior year, we had the privilege and the pleasure to compete in our division’s national tournament. We actually ended up going all the way to the National Championship game in Oklahoma City in 2006. We led the entire game, but ended up losing on a tip-in at the last second right as the final buzzer sounded. Depressing? Maybe. But it was an incredible learning experience! I’ll share more on this loss in the future but for now, I’d like to talk about why we were able to succeed.

My buddy Jon was (and still is) one of my best friends. At six foot six, 220 lbs, Jon was a bundle of basketball joy. The perfect size for a dominant division III NCAA post-player. Not only was he built for the job, but he had the work ethic and skills to pay the billz (the “z” is added there to maintain my status as a gangsta). In 2005, he was the recipient of the NCAA Field Goal Percentage award. That means out of every basketball player in Divisions I, II, and III, Jon made more of his attempted shots than anyone else (Emeka Okafur [who is now in the NBA] was the Division I leader for the University of Connecticut, came in 3rd place behind my Jonny boy)!

It was a no-brainer that our coach named Jon team captain for the 2005-2006 season (our senior year). Our senior class had 4 solid players (3 all-Americans, and 1 point guard who is the best defender I’ve seen in my life) who had been starters for the past 3 years. A “perfect storm” of talent and hard work was forming, and success looked immanent.

But even though we had 4 pillars to our potential championship team, Jon and company couldn’t do it alone. They needed the help of the rest of the team. The old phrase “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” comes to mind.

I was that weakest link.

The last guy off the bench, I took my job as “bench captain” like it was the greatest job in the world. Fun!


So we have a “sandwich” of a team. We have Jon as the top loaf of bread, and Josh as the bottom. Now, how do we motivate all the “meat” in the middle? This is where understanding the Foundations of Leadership really came alive to me.

Our Coach (spelled with a capital letter on purpose) was the very best in the nation. That’s not an exaggeration either. He worked harder at becoming a great coach than anyone I’ve met before. As a D-3 All-American in the early ’90s, Coach led his team (as a player) to a national championship. It was around his 12th year that he took our team back to the championship as a Coach. All of the early mornings, late nights, trips, conferences, scouting missions, and hours upon hours of video and practice got him to be the leader that we needed.

However, just like I’ve mentioned before, Coach couldn’t do it alone.

Let’s get back to the story of our hero, Jon.

Follow Me

Jon bought into our Coach’s philosophy and ideals early. A talented player, he never let his play depend on talent alone. Hard work, trips with Coach, hours upon hours of video, and practice, practice, PRACTICE helped him work to becoming a great player.

Because he spent so much time with our Coach as a freshman and sophomore, he understood how Coach thought. How he viewed the game, what his tendencies were, what our team needed to get to the next level.

The success of our senior year really began in the summer of our junior year. Once Jon started influencing (key word) the rest of our team to follow him, as he followed Coach. He knew the mission, he knew Coach’s goals, and he had a sort of “in the trenches” rapport with the rest of us that Coach couldn’t have. It was through this “following” that we gave Jon our respect and attention, and eventually saw that he was only replicating what Coach had already taught him over the previous 3 years.


Because Jon knew how to follow, he was able to influence the rest of us to follow. We jokingly called him our “fearless leader”, but looking back, that’s exactly who he was, a fearless leader. It takes guts to lead.

He didn’t wait for some magic moment to start leading, either. He began right where he was, and learned from somebody who knew the ropes (our Coach).

Maybe you’re like Jon was in the beginning, wanting to lead but not knowing where to start. Maybe you have someone that you view as a leader, and wonder how they got where they are, and WANT to be like them. Maybe you don’t care (but I doubt that, otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far).

We’re all called upon to lead at some point in our lives. Whether at work, play, or with our friends or family. Leadership can jump upon us sometimes if we don’t expect it. Or, it can be brought about intentionally, methodically.

Tim Morris (of Intentional Influence fame) and I have teamed up to bring you the building blocks of leadership. Like the story of Jon above, learning how to FOLLOW is a necessary building block. It’s also one of many characteristics that Tim and I cover in our new book, which I’m proud to announce.

On the morning of November 2nd, the United States will open up the polls to potentially changing the leadership of our country. I hope that y’all will vote and make a difference. There’s also another momentous opportunity for you to “vote” on November 2nd as well.

Vote on changing your own leadership.

Tim and I will be releasing our e-book, “The Core” November 2nd at 10 AM ET. If you’ve been riding the fence, sitting on the bench, standing against the wall (or any other phrases I can think of for not taking action), now is the time to jump in and get your feet wet.

There are more goodies to come concerning The Core, but for now I’ll leave with a question:

What are you doing to change or magnify your influence in the lives of others?


– JC


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