In a book I recently read by Tim Grover titled “Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable”, I couldn’t help but relate to the thirteen qualities he finds in the best of the best athletes he’s worked with as a personal trainer. These greats include Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James, to name a few. While I don’t scratch the surface in athletic ability or intensity as these three, I think those who strive to be great leaders all have a few of these qualities.
Grover believes there is a lot of focus put on the athletes who are considered “Closers”, or athletes that prove time and time again to be go-to players who produce results that help their team secure a win. Instead, he believes “Cleaners” (Grover, 2013, pg.3) are more critical to a team and their success. Cleaners, as defined by Grover, are “the most intense and driven competition imaginable.” (Grover, 2013, pg.3). Limitations are refused, you do whatever it takes to get what you want, and you understand “the insatiable addiction to success.” (Grover, 2013, pg.3).
In his Relentless Thirteen, Grover lists the following qualities of a Cleaner:
1. You keep pushing yourself harder when everyone else has had enough.
2. You get into the zone, you shut out everything else, and control the uncontrollable.
3. You know exactly who you are.
4. You have a dark side that refuses to be taught to be good.
5. You’re not intimidated by pressure; you thrive in it.
6. When everyone is hitting the “In Case of Emergency” button, everyone is looking for you.
7. You don’t compete with anyone, you find your opponent’s weaknesses and you attack.
8. You make decisions, not suggestions; you know the answer while everyone else is still asking questions.
9. You don’t have to love the work, but you’re addicted to the results.
10. You’d rather be feared than liked.
11. You trust very few people, and those you trust better never let you down.
12. You don’t recognize failure; you know there’s more than one way to get what you want.
13. You don’t celebrate your achievements because you always want more.
Based on our lessons this year, several of the qualities Grover believes to be required in order to be a “Cleaner” are qualities that are not always highlighted and/or encouraged behaviors. A challenge I find in my profession is finding the middle area between bringing intensity, grit, and relentless play from my playing experience, and tying it into leadership as a coach to foster that behavior in a healthy way. In young teenage athletes, they may look at the list of Grover’s Relentless Thirteen and say, “Number 10 is not a healthy social decision for me, because I want my teammates to like me,” or Number 13 says not to celebrate achievements; does that mean I shouldn’t be happy when we win?”
Over the last few days, I’ve tried to modify Grover’s Thirteen into a set of standards for leaders in my program by using material from our lessons this year to support more leadership qualities and less intensity from a competitior’s standpoint.
The Cardinal Code of Leadership
1. You continue to push yourself when others run out of drive, then you pick them up.
In Lesson 9 of our course work, Shared Leadership (PSU WC, L9, 2019) is described as sharing the role of leader with your teammates. In this case, a good leader in our program will do their job to the best of their ability, as well as pick up others when they struggle.
2. You know who you are, and you maximize your strengths to help others.
In Lesson 4, we focused on the Skills Approach (PSU WC, L4, 2019), and a leader understanding their skill-set(s) that allow them to be successful leaders. As a leader in my program, understanding yourself, specifically your strengths and weaknesses, will help you help others. While Grover believes Cleaners need an exact understanding of who they are, I think knowing your strengths and how you can use those to help others is more critical in a team setting.
3. When things don’t go according to plan, people around you look for the plan.
In Lesson 6, we dug deeper into Leader Behavior (PSU WC, L6, 2019). In order to be a successful leader in my program, I believe leaders need to have a strong ability to lead through Directive Leadership (PSU WC, L6, 2019). Directive Leaders give clear, direct instructions that help achieve the common goal.
4. You make decisions with the best interests of the team first, then ask for input from other teammates.
In the same lesson, Achievement-Oriented Leadership (PSU WC, L6, 2019) explains the importance of leading others to achieve the best possible outcome for the good of the team. As a leader, one must make decisions that have positive outcomes for the team, not just themselves. Often in high school sports, families make decisions to travel, or even to participate in sports, without considering the impact it has on others within the program. If each member of the team is not equally invested in the achievements of the team, those teams will crumble.
5. You’d rather be respected than liked.
Different from being feared, I think a good leader in my program should be respected. Only in totalitarian leadership models is fear a source of motivation, and when working with young adults, they want to feel as if they helped either make or significantly influenced the decision. The same goes for leaders and their teammates. Leaders will fail among their teammates if the value of being popular outweighs makeing the right decisions for the team.
6. Celebrate your achievements with your team, with the understanding that there is always more work to be done.
Without acknowledging achievement, teams can splinter when the relentless pursuit of perfection can grow to be more important than being with one another and accomplishing a goal together. While good leaders are satisfied with achieving team goals, I believe great leaders bask in the grind to achieve a goal, and can’t wait to start the process over again.
While my list is a constant work in progress, I think much of what Grover has set out to illustrate with his Cleaner model of leadership (Grover, 2013) can be modified to incorporate specific leadership skills, and be more flexible with the needs of getting others to work with you, rather than always working against you.
Penn State World Campus, 2019
Grover, T. Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, 2013