Ettore Messina, four-time Euroleague champion head coach, and Lluís Martínez-Ribes, ESADE Business School Associate Professor, brought two distinctive but complementary visions to their informal talks on leadership in sport, called Leading to Perform: Leadership Learning From High-Performance Sport.
Both speakers emphasized key themes in sports leadership that can be applied to management as a whole: helping players learn how to take personal responsibility; building trust among team members; communicating clearly and effectively and learning from mistakes. For Messina, one of his most vital roles as a coach is to help players learn how to play under pressure, which calls on all those main themes. In fact, he believes the key factor behind the Panathinaikos victory over Montepaschi Siena in the semifinal of the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four was exactly that.
“Panathinaikos won because they played well when they were behind and Siena was not as good in that situation,” he said. “The winner is the team that plays better when it is down in the score.”
Martínez-Ribes, a specialist in marketing innovation and retail, applied the latest research to effective communication. “Communication is information plus persuasion, but that cannot be done without emotion,” he said. “About 90% of our decisions are emotionally rooted.”
Both agreed that the metaphor of an orchestra to describe team leadership is misleading. The real metaphor is a jam session. “In basketball you have to know how to coordinate the different parts, deciding when to step back and when to step forward,” said Messina. “That’s more like a jam session. In an orchestra there is musical score, and everyone knows what to do and when beforehand.”
The symposium, held under the aegis of the Euroleague Basketball Institute, is part of the Euroleague’s strategy to develop high-quality professionals in the sporting business. Jordi Bertomeu, president and CEO of Euroleague Basketball, said that good managers are essential to the sport’s future. “What happens on the court is very important, but if you don’t develop all that’s related to management, it will be difficult to improve as a league and as an institution.
The event took place at the headquarters of Barcelona’s INEFC (Catalan National Institute of Physical Education), located next to the Final Four venue Palau Sant Jordi.