“March Madness” is upon us. Over a few weeks, millions will watch the nation’s top college basketball teams compete to become the 2013 NCAA champion. As you watch the tournament this year, consider the way the coaches are demonstrating leadership before, during, and after the games.

Have you built a team that can win, or that can win it all? 

There are a number of coaches who can build a team good enough to get to the tournament year after year, but only a very small number can produce a team good enough to go deep year after year. The players change annually, so consistency in getting there or falling short can be attributed to the coach. In your work, which best describes you? Have you built a team that is not quite good enough?

You play like you practice. 

Legends has it that in the time out just before the famous last-second basket that propelled Duke over Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional, Coac K asked Grant Hill, simply: “Can you make the pass?” Hill said “yes,” so the coach asked Christian Laettner, “Can you make the shot?” Laettner said “yes.” The play had been practiced, the principals knew their roles, and they knew that they could execute. The play worked and Duke went on to win the championship. Have you prepared your team for moments like this, and are you able to demonstrate the calm necessary to allow team members to simply focus on executing their roles?

Strategy is always emerging.

It’s well understood that planning is indispensable. It is equally well understood that plans often are outdated the minute the action starts. The tournament provides great examples. Games unfold in unpredictable ways. Opposing teams have their own strategies. Players can unexpectedly end up in foul trouble. In your leadership work, how well do you recognize the ways that circumstances are always out-dating your game plan? How able are you to help your team make the necessary adjustments?

Situational awareness is a key capability.

If you want to avoid a mistake, focus on finding individuals with great situational awareness. Our experience with leadership-assessment reinforces the observation that there is no substitute for the ability to instinctively and immediately understand the way situations require adaptation. Have you devoted sufficient time to the task of helping people develop situational awareness so they can make the best “in the moment” decisions for your company?

The events that will help us remember the 2013 tournament are yet to unfold, but it is a safe bet that among them will be a number of lessons for leaders. Some of these lessons might involve a coach who rallies his troops to defy the odds; others might feature a leader who allows his team to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Regardless, the implications are there: We can all see ways to think and behave differently as leaders by watching how coaches and players thrive or wilt under the bright lights of the tournament.

Source: Business Week