“Leadership is always the problem & always the solution.” – Bobby Moore

Leadership is a common topic of conversation these days. Leadership has been on my educational radar screen beginning the day I was hired to be the head Men’s basketball coach at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in 1965. I faced an enormous challenge. The previous coach had quit at the halftime of a game. The program had never experienced a winning season and this big problem was leaderless.

At our first meeting, 36 students joined me in a classroom. I wore a suit and tie so that students would know I was a member of the UA staff. One of my players was a year older than me and I looked younger than most of them.

These were my first words, “Welcome, my name is Fred Crowell, I am the coach.”

You might be thinking, why did I tell them who I was and name my position. Earlier that day, Mike Tauriainen, veteran player and currently one of my best friends on the planet, walked into my office and asked me, “Where is the coach?” I replied, “I am the coach.” With surprise, Mike said, “You can’t be; you are not old enough.”

After the introduction, I announced, “Congratulations, all of you have made the team; I do not cut players.” At the first practice 35 players showed up; one was out ill. Five days later 36 players showed up for the two-hour intense basketball session.

Two weeks later 13 players showed up. 23 players decided they did not want to pay the price to be a NANOOK (a name for the polar bear.) One quit because he would not get his hair cut to the minimum standard; several others decided a party life was more important than basketball; still, others did not want to go to class and be on study table.

When are your ready to lead? When are you ready to be a father or mother? When are you ready to lead a company or coach a team? Important questions? Based on 50 years of experience, I believe you are never ready until you are thrust into the leadership role. At this point,  the question becomes, are you motivated, dedicated, passionate about learning to become the person qualified to do the required job?

Based on my research as a college student, a long professional career as a college coach, owner of an international business, marriage and family counsel, husband, father, papa and mentor to many, these are the ways I believe leaders can solve problems and not be the problem:

1. Develop the passion for being a qualified servant leader – begin with “want to” not “how to.”  For example, I can be 100% dedicated to being the best Papa in the world. Show me a great papa and I want to learn from him. I want to be better and better as a papa! “Want to” is king in my world.

2. Have a crystal clear philosophy – know what you believe and believe what you do! My greatest lifetime gift is seeing the world through the lens of God’s Holy Word, which became flesh and dwelt among us. I am committed to following the example of Jesus, Paul, David, Daniel, Peter, and other great men. This demands study and relentless pursuit of learning new and better ways to be a servant leader.

3. Come under the authority of a qualified mentor leader – I have come to believe that every person needs a mentor in each important area of life. This mentor must pass two very important tests. These two tests are not negotiable. A worthy leader must have a proven track record over a long period of time – no one time flash wonders, and they must be worthy of being imitated. Imitation is the father of learning.

If you can’t be imitated in your behavior in any area of life, it is time to change this behavior.

In my view as I enter my 74th year of life, there has never been a time when leadership at all levels is so lacking. Too few fathers, too few coaches, too few politicians, too few teachers, too few mothers, too few business people are worthy of being imitated.

I long to be able to say what the Apostle Paul told his followers, “Follow me as I follow Christ’.  While in prison this amazing saint said, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Special friends who read Words of Hope, I confess I have a long, long way to go to be able to say, Follow me as I follow Christ”, but know each day for the rest of my life I am passionate about coming closer to being able to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ for He alone is worthy to be followed with unabandoned passion.”