4 Lessons to Learn From the Owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

Lebron James' fatheads are now available for $17.41...hmmm...

In case you don’t follow the sports world at all, you have missed a soap opera in the NBA over the last week.  2-time NBA MVP, Lebron James, decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat, a move that shocked the NBA and angered Cavaliers’ fans worldwide.  In response, Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, retaliated with a scathing letter posted on the Cavaliers’ web site

Gilbert referred to his former franchise player as “narcissistic” and a “coward,” while later stating that James “gave up” on the team during several playoff games over the last few years.  Additionally, Gilbert even made the childish move the following day of changing the price of a Lebron James’ product on one his web sites from $99 to $17.41 (note: famous traitor, Benedict Arnold, was born in 1741).

Given that the owner was aggressively trying to re-sign James until he decided to leave for Miami last week, Gilbert’s actions are analogous to a guy who professes his love for a girl, gets rejected by the girl, and then tells the world that he did not want to be with her anyway because she is a miserable person. 

When it comes to your career, there are 4 key lessons to be learned here:

  1. You cannot always control the actions of the people you work with, but you can always control how you respond.  While James was free to sign with the team of his choice (note: that is the definition of a free agent), he clearly could have handled the situation more professionally.  However, just because he handled it poorly does not mean that Gilbert had to respond in the way that he did.  Gilbert could have taken the high-road, but he chose to be critical and childish instead.
  2. When you throw someone under the bus, YOU are the person who looks bad, even if the other person deserves to be criticized.  As a result of Gilbert’s actions, the majority of the media attention has now shifted to Gilbert, and few people are talking about the way Lebron handled his “decision.”
  3. You open yourself up to criticism when you criticize others.  After seeing Gilbert’s comments, Jesse Jackson posted some highly controversial comments by stating that Gilbert had a “slave master mentality.”
  4. Be very careful what you put in writing or declare publicly.  It would have been understandable for Gilbert to harbor some resentment for James for a period of time or even to share his feelings with his family members or closest friends.  However, he chose to declare his outrageous beliefs and emotions to the world, a decision that has turned into a PR disaster.

While I suppose you can respect Gilbert’s passion for his franchise and for the city of Cleveland, I believe his actions will do him and the franchise MUCH more harm than good.  Had he expressed disappointment with James’ actions in a more professional way, he could have stood up for his fan base, while still taking the high road.  Now, he must deal with comments about being a racist, a dangerous stigma for a white owner in a league (the NBA) that is primarily comprised of African-American players.

How should you respond when disappointed or angered by the actions of someone you work with?  Take the high-road.  You can express your displeasure privately or you can even do it publicly, IF you do it in a manner that is still professional.  You cannot control the actions of others, but you can always control how you respond!

-Pete Leibman

College Speaker and President of Idealize Enterprises




Explore posts in the same categories: Attitude, Dealing With Difficult People, Integrity, Personal Branding, Professional Relationships

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