Leaders are born or are leaders made?

Leaders are born. Or, is it, leaders are made? What’s the answer? Like usual, it’s probably a mixture of both. Nothing is ever black or white. There’s always a little gray.

Seth Godin believes that leaders are made. Seth is talking about the workplace, so he’s likely correct. I would agree that leaders can be made in the workplace if properly trained.

Magic Johnson believes leaders are born. Or, more accurately, you’re either a leader or not when you come into the NBA (usually 18 – 21 years old).

Two seasons ago the Los Angeles Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell with the #2 pick. He has the talent to become an All-Star caliber player. Tons of players are drafted during the draft, and a vast majority go nowhere, while a very small percentage go on to have successful NBA careers. An even smaller percentage become All-Stars. The Lakers, of course, were hoping that Russell would live up to his talents.

During Russell’s rookie season, you could see glimpses of his potential, but he didn’t get much playing time since Kobe Bryant was in the midst of his last season before retiring. Last season was Russell’s first full season where he saw plenty of playing time. It was also the first season where Magic Johnson (President) and Rob Pelinka (General Manager) would be in charge. They got hired to hopefully turn the Lakers around, and back into a winning team.

Magic took the job determined to bring the Lakers back to winning. Immediately, he began evaluating each player. Magic wanted to know which players would make great pieces on a championship team. Winning a championship is the ultimate goal.

Throughout last season Magic watched the games, talked to the players, attended practices, and went to workout sessions. He found out what he needed to know.

A few days before the NBA draft (Lakers again had the #2 pick) the Lakers made a stunning trade that sent Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. Many fans felt that it was a bad move (initially me too). That was their #2 pick of only a few years ago, and those are hard to come by! He still had tons of potential (only 21 years old)!

It became clear that Magic had found out what he needed to know, and that he didn’t make a terrible choice. Lonzo Ball had worked out for the Lakers twice, as a draft prospect. Lonzo plays the point guard position, like Russell. He’s big for the position, like Russell. Lonzo is 6’6″ while Russell is 6’5″. Lonzo also has incredible talent, with his passing abilities shinning bright, like Russell.

After seeing Lonzo work out for the Lakers and after hanging out with Lonzo’s family for a day, Magic saw the difference between the two talented young point guards.

Lonzo Ball was a born leader.

Lonzo Ball’s college coaches praised his leadership skills, and so did his parents (he was the oldest child).

On the other hand, Russell was questioned many times throughout the season regarding his leadership skills and locker room presence. Magic knows what it takes to win a championship. Magic knows that the point guard, on a winning team, needs to be a leader.

On draft day, Magic and the Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with their #2 pick. Both had incredible talent, but Lonzo Ball had the right mentality. Ball was a born leader. Magic Johnson found his point guard. As a Lakers fan, I hope Lonzo does well and lives up to his expectations.