Do you now know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Turn on ESPN, and you’re going to hear a lot of people talking about the Vegas Golden Knights and their “miraculous” run up to the Stanley Cup Finals. Commentators are calling the Knights miraculous because they’re a brand new team. Tradition says that brand new teams aren’t supposed to make it to the finals.
When you look at the Knights’ performance through the lens of servant leadership, there is absolutely nothing miraculous about their success. In fact, given the Knights’ servant culture, the bigger surprise would have been if they hadn’t experienced a blowout inaugural season.
Here are four reasons why it’s not surprising that the Knights are in a position to bring home the Stanley Cup:
Dream teams don’t necessarily have the best players, but the best teammates.
When the Knights’ owners were forming their new team, they didn’t get to pick and choose players from hockey’s top talent. Instead, they had to cobble together a roster with athletes whose current coaches had put them on a list as being “available.”
Imagine being one of those players. Your old team doesn’t want you, and now you’re headed to a brand new club that has essentially zero chance of performing well the first season. Pretty demoralizing, right?
Not for those newly minted Knights, it wasn’t. Instead of wasting time complaining that they weren’t valued by their old teams, each of the new Vegas players used their underdog status as an incentive to pull together immediately, support one another with a vengeance, and show the world what selfless teamwork could achieve.
At the end of the day, the best players may not be the best teammates. You build a dream team not through cherry picking talent, but through getting a group of people together who understand their roles and who want to support one another to fulfill a shared purpose.
Reflection point: Have you ever lost a job opportunity that you felt you should have received? How did you react? Whenever you’re passed over, you can sulk about it and blame leadership for not picking the right person, or you can dig deep and demonstrate your value through serving your teammates even more effectively than you did before. The team’s results will be your results. As they say, teamwork makes the dream work.
When you help people feel valued, you increase their energy.
Pulling together a new team in one year can be challenging. That is why an expansion team has not been to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1968. None of the players on the Golden Knights had any false expectations when they started the season. They knew it was going to be a tough road during their first few years.
But because they felt valued, the Knights worked hard. While their prior coaches had left them unprotected, the Knights’ new coaches let each of their players know how valuable they were to them. They embraced them with open arms, and let them know that they had something significant to build there in Las Vegas.
When people feel wanted and valued, they bring their best to the workplace.
Reflection point: Are you going out of your way to let your team members know how valuable they are to the success of your organization?
Humility builds relationships, which drive results.
Humble expectations can be a blessing. They can liberate you from the crowd noise that comes when you’re expected to excel. There’s less distraction, so you can focus on serving your teammates — instead of on being served by fame and glory.
Even as the season wore on and the Knights started becoming serious contenders, they stayed true to their humble beginnings. When they won the Conference Final game, their one superstar — goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — was asked on national TV if this was “his” best game of his life. Fleury’s response?
“I am only as good as my team.”
The Knights were playing for each other and for the community of Las Vegas. Nothing more, nothing less. The team’s focus on serving one another instead of their own egos delivered huge dividends throughout the season.
Reflection point: Are you aligning your words with your actions and letting your work do the talking for you?
A service-oriented purpose drives breakthrough success.
Often times, a team’s purpose can be relegated to the obvious. The Vegas Golden Knights’ purpose could have been to have a winning season in their first year in the league. Or, to get to the playoffs. Or, to build a solid foundation to build on for future years. Instead, the Knights chose to rally behind a servant purpose that had a profound impact on society.
Shortly before the hockey season began and the Knights started their inaugural season in the league, there was a tragic shooting in Las Vegas in which many people were injured and killed. The Vegas Golden Knights adopted the mantra “Vegas Strong” and put the city on their backs in order to help bring all those who were grieving through this tragedy.
Reflection point: Are you and your team working towards a purpose that extends beyond yourselves and your organization? Doing so will ignite passion within your team because it will support people to feel that their efforts are significant because they are in service to the world.
I have no idea whether or not the Vegas Golden Knights will finish the deal and skate the Stanley Cup around the ice in a couple of weeks. But I do know that they’ve showed the world valuable lessons on servant leadership that we can all apply to our lives – both at work and at home.
What have you learned from this breakthrough expansion team that applies to your role as a servant leader? I’d be honored if you’d share your story in the comment section of this blog.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:25