Coach Popovich and Three Types of Distractions Focused Leaders Abhor

Gregg Popovich is an incredible basketball coach. Year after year, under his leadership, the San Antonio Spurs compete for championships. NBA fans enjoy watching his in-game interviews because of his sarcasm and unpredictable responses. Here are some of Coach Popovich’s best in-game interviews.

The reason for his short responses is, as you may have assumed, that Coach Popovich hates the concept of in-game interviews. Of Popovich and the interviews, ESPN’s Mike Breen said, “He doesn’t think a coach, in the middle of his game, should have to do that. And I guess him being difficult is his form of protest.” Clearly in his mind, the questions pull him from leading his team, from applying his focus and energy to the game. The interview is a distraction from his team, from his task.

Focused leaders abhor distractions. They know distractions divide mental energy and steal time from what is most important. Here are three types of distractions focused leaders abhor the most:

1. Mission distraction

Focused leaders tend to have a visceral reaction to anything that threatens to pull them or those they are serving off mission. A major frustration for a leader is the constant shifting of directions or the inability to execute in a consistent direction.

2. Bureaucratic distraction

A bureaucratic distraction is an unnecessary action leaders must endure to continue serving. Evidently the league requires coaches to conduct in-game interviews. Coach Popovich loves coaching and loves his team more than he hates the bureaucratic distraction, so he endures it. However, there is a limit to how much bureaucracy focused leaders can take. Focused leaders won’t last indefinitely in a stifling system.

3. Incompetence distraction

None of us are competent all the time or competent in all things. Every one of us needs help, growth, and development. But leaders that must deal with continued incompetence from others—without the ability to move them off the team—are continually slowed down and distracted. Instead of executing, they are continually putting out fires. Instead of running at full speed, they are continually slowed. Whether it is the inability to remove a tenured teacher or someone who is deemed “untouchable,” leaders can be saddled and distracted with continued incompetence.

Notice what is missing from the list. Wise leaders do not consider people or “just life” as unnecessary distractions. Because we live in a world that is broken, there will be problems and trials and mistakes. Wise leaders must view these as opportunities. And, yes, people can bring distractions and can become distractions. But people are why leaders exist.