Here’s the thing about LeBron James: You don’t actually have to see him on a basketball court to know he’s different than everyone else. All you really have to do is close your eyes and listen.
The Heat’s practice gym inside AmericanAirlines Arena, located on the second floor of the northeast side of the building, is a bandbox of sound during team workouts. Shoes chirp against the hardwood. Basketballs, dozens of them sometimes, pound the court and carom off backboards and rims in an unmetered symphony of percussion. The shrill cry of coach Erik Spoelstra’s whistle bounces from wall to floor and fills even the space between spaces.
Then there is James’ voice, a deep and constant backbeat for this basketball song. He shouts commands during practice like an officer commanding his troops. He instructs young players, corrects mistakes, positions the defense, praises effort and demands excellence.
You know how sometimes a person’s voice doesn’t exactly match their body? Mike Tyson, for example. That is not James. His booming vocals are every bit as big as his game. How he uses that gift, according to his teammates, is almost as important to the Heat’s success as his prodigious body, his unique blend of skills and his freakish blend of speed and power.
“His voice challenges you to be louder,” Heat center Chris Bosh said. “He sets the tone every day whether he knows it or not.
“If he’s quiet, guys are usually going to be quiet. If he’s loud, guys are going to be loud, and that’s important on defense.”
James’ ability as a communicator, bolstered by that powerful voice, is but one asset in the diverse portfolio of his leadership traits. His skills as a leader magnify his talents as a basketball player. It’s his combination of leadership and game — the mix of what is statistically quantifiable and what is intangibly just as important — that makes him the best basketball player on the planet. James now enters his 10th season in the NBA clutching the world in his powerful hands.
Much of the foundation of what makes James such a distinguished leader comes naturally — that voice, his charismatic personality, his compassionate heart, his love of family. Just look at his inner circle of friends. He has cared for them like brothers — given them jobs and purpose — ever since he joined the league as a teenager.
But just as James has developed his moves and skills on the court, and just as he has crafted his body with workouts and a healthy diet, so, too, has James cultivated his skills as a leader.
For instance, here’s James’ biggest take away from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War:
“As a commander, and as a man that’s in control, a leader has to not only be prepared, but he has to make sure everyone else is prepared as well,” James said. “As a leader, sometimes you get so involved in what you need to do individually, sometimes you can misunderstand how important it is to have everyone else prepared as well — even to the highest standard that you’re at. Because when you’re going to war, when you’re going into combat, preparing everyone to the highest standard makes the cohesiveness and the togetherness much better.”