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.


Don’t Be So Self-Centered!

As the pastor of a local church, I am often left to ponder the disconnection of a person from our congregation. Why has he not been to worship in three weeks? Why is he visiting another church? Why did he stop participating with his small group? These are constant questions for pastors, and I imagine there is a parallel set for the leader of any small to medium-sized business.

My standard series of responses to these questions is overwhelmingly disappointing. My answers either center around people’s view of me or people’s view of our church. My answers tend be in this general realm:

  • He must have not liked my preaching.
  • He must have not liked our convictions or values.
  • He must have believed the grass was greener elsewhere.
  • There are more sinful and hurtful answers that I think but refuse to type or speak.

All of these responses are about me and our church. On a few occasions, these answers are accurate. Most of the time, I am wrong. I am learning the depth of how wrong I am.

How wrong am I? People often disconnect from our church because of something going on with themselves. The cliche, “It is not you, it is me,” is actually true. People disconnect because of unbelief, doubt, sinful patterns, depression, loneliness, accusations, family strife, loss of a job, addictions and much more. Notice a theme here? People disconnect from the church when they have spiritual needs. People disconnect when they need Christians to pursue them, love them, challenge them, teach them and pray for them. People disconnect from the church at the times they most need the church. As a pastor, my task is to lead my church by example in pursuing these folks.

When I make the people’s disconnection about me, I miss the opportunity to be a pastor to them. I miss the opportunity to lead them. I miss the opportunity to love them. I miss the opportunity to speak the gospel of Jesus into their need. My self-centered thought patterns are distracting me and in some cases preventing me from ministerial opportunities.

Here are few leadership adjustments I am attempting:

  • Don’t be so self-centered. Look up, look out and see the real issues. There are gospel opportunities in reality.
  • Don’t assume I know the reason. Take the time and risk to ask. Send an email. Make a phone call. Knock on a door. The risk likely will bear fruit.
  • Let the disappointment of disconnection drive me to prayer. I don’t heal people or fix people. God does. Perhaps, my contribution is praying God’s blessing into a situation.

What do you think? What other adjustments would you recommend? How does this apply to other business settings?