LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Members and guests of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance got more than just a good lunch on Wednesday during the monthly membership meeting at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch.
What they heard was Pat Williams of the National Basketball Association's Orlando Magic speak about what makes an exceptional leader.
The basketball hall of famer, co-founder and senior vice president of the team that once featured Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing and Penny Hardaway, is the author of 85 books, and parent of 19 children, 14 adopted from four foreign countries.
With a charismatic and down-to-earth style, Williams, who said he is fascinated by leadership and who has held leadership positions in professional athletics for 50 years, identified key attributes that constitute a great leader.
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Vision, Williams said, is the primary foundation of a quality leader, one who can see farther down the road than others in a wider scope than simply in black and white. Be it George Washington, who envisioned a nation independent of British rule; Winston Churchill, who saw the world free of Nazi oppression; or Martin Luther King Jr., who foresaw judgment by the content of one's character rather than the color of their skin, every great leader in the history of mankind has vision, Wil
liams told the group.
"I was in awe when I drove into Lakewood Ranch today. Someone here sure had vision, didn't they?" Williams asked the crowd of more than 100 guests. "I've got to believe this was just open land with some citrus trees. Now, you have a state-of-the-art arrangement that blows people away, and it all started with vision."
That vision, Williams said, will keep a person focused "like a horse at the Kentucky Derby with blinders on so you don't get distracted," It will keep a person fueled with an enormous amount of energy, passion and enthusiasm, and will help him or her across the finish line toward a goal.
Williams pointed to the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, as an example of the second foundation of leadership: communication.
"Old Sam believed that you should communicate as much as you can with your associates. The more you communicate, the more they understand and the more they understand, the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them," he told the crowd.
Williams said solid people skills, a character of integrity, talent and a commitment to lifelong teaching and learning are qualities that will pull all the pieces of a great leader together.
"When a great leader sees an opportunity, they don't wait for an invitation, a tap on the shoulder, a voice from above. They step out and start doing, and they do it with a serving, non-manipulative heart."
Chris Coffin, a guest to the business alliance and owner of Storage Now on State Road 70 in East Manatee, said he came away feeling inspired, yet humbled.
"We need to have more of a 'serving heart,' there's no question about that in this country," Coffin said. "It's an awareness thing and I'm glad he brought it to my attention."
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.