Butler's Winning Values

April 8th, 2013

If you follow college basketball, you know that tonight is the final game of the NCAA tournament. Louisville v. Michigan for the whole enchilada. Usually, I am following the games with much excitement. My husband and I have a great time filling out our brackets and cheering both for the teams we love and whatever team whose win would put us ahead of the other in our family pool.

Three weeks or so ago, we were all geared up. Our fridge was stocked with pizza and beer. Our pantry had plenty of chips on the shelf and three tournament brackets taped to the door. My husband Matt's was filled out with the help of insight from Sports Center, regular season stats, and a dash of team loyalty. I use my gut and a little more loyalty (which often beats Matt's carefully-researched picks, nonetheless). Our four-year-old uses an even gutsier gut, which frequently chooses 16-seed teams to beat number ones, and a number of 15-2 upsets. She's among the few Americans to have correctly picked #14 Harvard's win over #3 New Mexico, as well as Florida Gulf Coast's Cinderella run.

But there's one thing all three of our brackets had in common: that coveted center spot, the tournament champion, said Butler. Our hopes were dashed in just the second round this year, but we're not just fair-weather fans.

Long before the Butler Bulldogs made history by being the first team to make it to two consecutive finals of the NCAA basketball tournament without being seeded #1 or #2, our family has bled blue for Butler (and Kentucky and Memphis and anyone playing against Louisville, but that's another story). Matt graduated Indianapolis' Butler University in 2003 and has great memories of cheering with his fraternity brothers in the student section, AKA the Dawg Pound. The Final Four began on Holy Saturday in 2010, so as a pastor, he really couldn't leave town at that point, but gladly drove five hours the morning after Easter to be in Indianapolis for the final game that Monday.

Butler lost 61-59 to Duke that night, but a cartoon that appeared soonafter showed the impact Butler had made. It showed a Duke Blue Devil holding the championship trophy, and the Butler Bulldog (Blue II) holding a much bigger trophy symbolizing "the hearts of America." Everyone loves an underdog, or as they tend to call underdogs who exceed expectations in March Madness, Cinderella teams. And there's something even more loveable about a Cinderella team with the highest graduation rate in the NCAA and a coach so young and cute (in my opinion) that he is sometimes mistaken for a student.

We long-time fans have always known there's something special about Butler, but its last few years on a national stage—and now, a leadership book by Indianapolis pastor Kent Millard and the director of Butler's Center for Faith and Vocation, Judith Cebula—have made the school's winning principles more widely known.

Lead Like Butler: Six Principles for Values-Based Leaders, explores what is known on campus as The Butler Way, a set of values for athletes across Butler's programs emphasizing character above all else.

Millard and Cebula's six chapters explore each of those values: Humility, Passion, Unity, Servanthood, Thankfulness, and Accountability. Together, they form a recipe for a team culture that excels together because each member puts his teammates and the team as a whole above himself. It's a Christlike model that draws out the best in each player as they serve one another.

Stories from Butler basketball, including Coach Stevens and women's basketball coach Beth Couture, as well as mentors Bryan Collier, Tony Hinkle, Tony Dungy, and John Wooden will warm the hearts of Butler fans but also inspire leaders of all kinds to cultivate such a remarkable culture among the athletes, employees, or volunteers they lead. Examples from scripture and business make up half of each chapter, making an even broader case for the values emphasized in the Butler program.

The authors cite well-known sports writer Dick Vitale in saying "If you want to learn how basketball is played in its purest form—the team game—learn all you can about Butler hoops."

Lead Like Butler will certainly contribute to that body of knowledge for basketball coaches and players, but every bit as much so for leaders in any field wanting to improve one's own leadership and intentionally cultivate a winning team.

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