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5 Examples of Big-Time Leadership from Jalen Rose in The Fab Five

Key Takeaway: Jalen Rose showed tremendous leadership by initiating change when he felt change was needed, providing for a friend in need, responding positively to adversity, “picking up” his coach and a teammate emotionally after a loss, and standing up for what he believed in.

My favorite documentary in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is The Fab Five, which is a fascinating look at the Michigan Fab Five, their ups and downs, and the impact they had on college basketball and American culture in general.

One of the things that jumped out at me was Jalen Rose‘s tremendous leadership abilities, which are especially impressive because he was still a teenager in the documentary.

Here are five examples:

Lesson 1: Initiating change and progress toward a solution when he saw a problem… short shorts .

During the 1980s and early 1990s, basketball shorts were much shorter (and tighter) than they are now. During their first season at Michigan, Jalen and the other members of the Fab Five were uncomfortable with the — in Ice Cube‘s words — “panties” that they potentially had to wear, which was a problem because they needed to be comfortable in order to play at their best.

While he could have just sulked about the shorts, Jalen led the charge to get baggier shorts for the team — which not only allowed them to be more comfortable, but it also completely changed the style of basketball attire to this day.

Lesson 2: Providing for a fellow colleague in need… providing Ray Jackson with a jacket.

At one point in the documentary, Ray Jackson — one of the other Fab Five freshmen — talked about how he was from Texas and wasn’t accustomed to Michigan’s cold weather.

When Ray was in need of a coat, Jalen was there to provide him with it. It’s interesting that of all the people — coaches, seniors, roommates, etc. — who could have given Ray a jacket, Jalen was the one to step in and offer one of his own.

Lesson 3: Responding positively to adversity… having his best game of the season while being verbally attacked by fans.

During his sophomore season, Jalen was playing video games one day at a house when police came in and arrested one of the people there because he had drugs on him.

This incident led to much negative media attention, and during Jalen’s next game at the University of Illinois, he was showered with anti-drug chants, such as “Just say no!”  Jalen used this negative energy as fuel and responded with his best game of the season.

Lesson 4: Being there to pick others up during moments when they were down… focusing on Coach Fisher and Chris Webber after the team lost their second straight national championship game.

Immediately following the devastating loss to North Carolina in the 1993 championship game, Jalen waited for his coach (Steve Fisher), put his arm around him, and told him that he loved him.  

Once he entered the locker room, he saw that his teammate Chris Webber (who had just made a crucial mental error toward the end of the game) was crying on the floor — and Jalen realized that now he had to help “pick up” his friend and teammate.

Even after losing the national championship game in terrible fashion, Jalen understood the importance of being there for other people and picking them up when they were in need. Instead of sulking and throwing a tantrum because they didn’t win, Jalen instead focused his attention on other people and lifting their spirits.

Lesson 5: Standing up for what he believed in — even if it can damage a relationship with a close friend… the Chris Webber “booster” incident .

After Chris Webber came out and said false things about a man in Detroit who provided him with some financial support, Jalen was upset about it — and he wasn’t afraid to let Chris know about it.

Many times, people are afraid of challenging other people or their friends about issues that they feel strongly about, but true leaders know that they need to have the courage to take a stand and speak up if necessary.


(Photo Credit: jmcmann via photopin cc)

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