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Choose your leadership weapon: a carrot or a stick

Choose your leadership weapon: a carrot or a stick

If you have ever been active in youth sports, either as a participant or as a parent, you will fully understand my message. When I was in high school, I played both basketball and volleyball. My dream had always been to play basketball for the Boston Celtics. When my growing concluded at 6’2”, I realized that this goal was going to need to be adjusted. My basketball coach was a crazed maniac on and off the court. He could never relax, was always yelling and insisted on having the team run “suicides” until someone threw up at every practice. This coach made everyone feel as if they were not good enough, even after we won games. He led his players with fear and punishment.

My volleyball coach, on the other hand, was a mild-mannered gentleman who studied the sport and did his best to teach us. He allowed us to have fun and created a positive environment for us to learn. In three years, I cannot remember a single time that he “lost his cool.” We never ran “suicides,” as he created enough volleyball drills that our conditioning was never in question. If we lost, which didn’t occur often, we not only felt bad for ourselves, but also for letting out coach down. Coach Mike Larko was inducted not only into the Plum High School Sports Hall of Fame, but also into the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame.

After one year of basketball horror, I made a conscious decision to pursue volleyball exclusively as a sport in high school. It provided me with great experiences and friends. In 1985, I was listed by Volleyball Monthly as one of the top 50 high school volleyball players in the country. As a sophomore I earned a walk-on spot for Penn State’s Division I team, and we placed third in the 1987 NCAA Championships.  
If you create a “carrot” (enticing) leadership environment, how far will your students go? Please share your personal experiences of “carrot” versus “stick” leadership and which has worked better for you as a salesperson and as a leader.

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