Be Specific: Leadership Lesson from Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant plays basketball for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Earlier this month, Durant was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. His acceptance speech was moving, authentic and powerful. It has rightly drawn a great deal of attention and praise. The entire speech is embedded at the bottom of this post. If you have not watched it, now would be a great time.

In general, I loath the public speaking of athletes. It is usually canned, scripted and vague. The standard athletic speech is pabulum.

Durant’s speech is refreshing, powerful and different. Durant’s speech lasts 26 minutes. It could have easily lasted 26 seconds. Durant could have said,

“I want to thank God, my coaches, my teammates, the ownership, the fans and everyone who has invested in me. This is a great honor. Thank you. I will now take your questions.”

That statement could have been just as heartfelt and genuine, but we would not have received as such. It would have been interpreted as obligatory and cliche.

So, how do we know Durant’s sincerity? Specificity. The amount of honest detail he shares is powerful. The above quote is the speech’s outline. Durant fills the extra 25 minutes by explaining exactly why he is thankful to each person by name.

Specificity is where words become powerful.

  • If we want to praise someone, be specific and give detail.
  • If we want to encourage someone, be specific and give detail.
  • If we need to confront someone, be specific and give detail.
  • If we want to ask forgiveness of someone, be specific and give detail.
  • If we want to share a new vision or lead in a new direction, be specific and give detail.
  • If we want to debate someone, be specific and give detail.

Specificity takes more time, preparation, energy and focus. Often, it requires much deliberation. Yet, the investment here is worthwhile. Perhaps, we as leaders need to better steward our influence by speaking and writing with more specificity.

Thank you Kevin Durant for the making this point so specifically.