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Kobe Bryant recalls how he dared his fellow Lakers 'to be their best selves'—and it worked

Shaquille O'Neal #34 and Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2004 NBA Playoffs
David Sherman | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

Over his 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant led his team to five NBA titles. But it wasn't just his jump shot that won championships. 

"I liked challenging people and making them uncomfortable," the retired basketball star writes in his new book, "Mamba Mentality." "That's what leads to introspection and that's what leads to improvement. You could say I dared people to be their best selves."

His leadership style took leg-work. After all, how you go about challenging an individual depends on things like their personality, what they're good at and what they need to get better at.

"To learn what would work and for who, I started doing homework and watched how they behaved," he continues. "I learned their histories and listened to what their goals were. I learned what made them feel secure and where their greatest doubts lay.

"Once I understood them, I could help bring the best out of them by touching the right nerve at the right time."

Another effective leadership technique is to be a good listener, "and not to what's being said, but to what's not being said," he told the University of Alabama college football team in a locker room pep talk in 2018. "You have to be really observant."

He continued: "You've got to observe them, because they all have things they want to accomplish as individuals, and as a leader you are like 'OK, what are those things? And how can I help them accomplish that within the system and the structure that we are trying to do collectively?'"

That requires a level of selflessness. You can't just ask yourself, "Are you in rhythm? Are you playing well in this game? Are you ready to go?" Rather, ask yourself, "'Are they ready? What can I do to help them be ready?' That's the big transition to make," says Bryant.

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The world's greatest leaders have these traits in common

As Wharton professor and bestselling author Adam Grant says, the less you care about your own success, the more successful you will be.

Grant, who has studied thousands of leaders, tells CNBC Make It: "What distinguishes the greatest leaders of our time, is that success is very rarely a goal for them, it's a byproduct of other goals that they have. They say, 'Look, the most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed, to advance a vision or an idea or a project that is bigger than me, that's going to affect a lot of people.'

"And then the bigger you aim there, the more you focus on doing something that's going to benefit others, the more likely you are to produce something that's also going to achieve success for you."

Don't miss: Kobe Bryant lives by this mantra from his high school English teacher

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Kobe Bryant talks about the business leaders that give him inspiration
Shaquille O'Neal #34 and Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2004 NBA Playoffs
David Sherman | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
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