A Shining Leadership Lesson from Kobe Bryant’s Dad

It was June 26, 1996, and I was traveling for work to the oh-so-enviable location of East Rutherford, New Jersey. My team and I were in town for a launch event we were running for our client. As we gathered in the lobby to go over some last-minute details, we noticed some very tall men in suits. The hotel where we were staying? Turned out, our hotel was also where players and their families were staying before the NBA draft. I didn’t follow basketball closely, but you didn’t have to be a genius to figure out who the players were. It also helped that some people on my team recognized several of the more famous of the bunch as they floated past us. We followed the lead of the crowd, found some blank paper, grabbed our pens, and decided to ask for autographs. I remember a few signatures on my pieces of scrap paper that day, but one stuck with me beyond all others. My friend and I walked up to a tall man who was signing with a smile on his face. As we waited our turn, we quietly asked someone nearby who it was and they whispered, it’s Joe Bryant. Cool, I thought. I didn’t know who Joe Bryant was, but lots of other people did, and my brothers would probably love his autograph. When we handed him our pens and paper, he didn’t write Joe Bryant, he wrote “Kobe’s Dad.”

How Kobe’s Dad Shifted the Spotlight

The 50th NBA draft was when Kobe Bryant was a first-round pick. Joe Bryant, his dad, was drafted in 1975 and played in the NBA until 1983. After that, he played for other professional leagues in Europe into his 50’s before becoming a coach. That day, however, he put the job of dad above all else. Sure, the press buzzed about how famous ballplayer Joe Bryant’s son was going to be drafted out of high school. Even I was in the loop as a fellow Philadelphia native. However, with a swoosh of his pen, Joe rewrote the story. It was about Kobe, and Joe led the way, keeping everyone’s eye on who mattered most.

Do You Take the Lead from Kobe’s Dad?

In the workplace, there are times that experienced leaders let others on their team step up in a big way and lead. It may be that person’s break out moment. When the time comes, they can either choose to be 100% supportive behind the scenes or take center stage. Years ago, I went on a roadshow with a senior leader for an initiative I was leading. When another leader in the room asked if they, the senior leader, would like to kick things off, they declined. More importantly, they introduced me. That day in East Rutherford, Kobe’s dad did the same. It didn’t erase one bit of his personal successes by shining the spotlight on his son instead of casting a shadow. Ask yourself, where are you shining your spotlight? Related: 7 Ways You’re Leading Like a Caricature. Grow Up.