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What Thinking Like LeBron James Can Do For Your Company

 
LeBron James has something to teach us about how to be a championship-caliber business. Let me explain.
 
On July 11, James sent a jolt through the sports world with three simple words: I'm coming home. The NBA superstar, in a moving letter published on si.com, announced his plan to return to the team which drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers. This seems like a logical move on the surface. After all, the Cavs have a younger roster with talent plus the salary cap space to offer him a max contract. 
 
But James is on a greater mission—one that goes beyond titles or money. By returning to his hometown, James looks to help revitalize the city and restore a sense of civic pride. He hopes that one day some of the kids he mentored "will come home after college and start a family or open a business." To a region that has suffered through many hardships, James speaks of hope and redemption. And he understands his homecoming as part of a greater plan. With this decision, James is redefining his legacy and gaining many supporters who are rooting for him to bring a title to Cleveland.
 
What LeBron James has achieved is the same thing that many companies haven't fully defined—a clear vision and purpose. Essentially, the key to organizational and individual success boils down to these ideals. As author and speaker  Simon Sinek describes it, the combination of the what, why and how are the most important elements in defining who we are—but we must start with why. We must ask ourselves, Why do we do what we do? What is our purpose for our daily activities or tasks? What truly drives our organization and compels us to perform well? 
 
Consider the vision as the root from which all other branches and leaves grow. If the vision of your organization is simply to turn a profit, then the actions and decisions of your company will revolve around that goal. Don't be surprised if employees cut a few corners with clients to fatten their own pockets. Or your product quality might begin to suffer because cheaper parts were used to maximize the margins. These actions would be a natural extension of a vision rooted in money.
 
But what if you stood for something beyond yourself? Then you are no longer just a brand, but a mission. The companies that are exceptional get this. Think Apple. Certainly, they've produced one amazing tech product after another, but their vision is to reach a new generation with ideas. To galvanize a world with a call to "think different." Remember this—brands might come and go, but missions never die.
 
Interestingly enough, like LeBron James, Liferay was committed to a greater hope in Ohio. (This might be the only time you hear LeBron and Liferay in the same sentence.) About eight months ago, we launched a Sales office based out in Hamilton. It was not a decision based solely on strategy—we also wanted to help rejuvenate the local region by creating job opportunities and stimulating economic growth. For some, New York or San Francisco would have made more business sense. But for us, it made perfect sense. At the heart of Liferay's vision is an idea of "for life", which means we exist to impact the world community. Which is one of the many reasons I love working here. 
 
Whether you're an entrepreneur or member of a corporate ecosystem, the challenge is to define a clear vision that  people believe in. And it starts with understanding your purpose and your place in the greater culture. If you can execute on these fundamentals, the rest should be a slam dunk.
 
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Liferay: Nerd On The Street is a blog devoted to sharing new ideas about business and technology. To continue the discussion, post your thoughtful insights below.

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Nice write-up but to keep with the NBA example: loyalty is bigger than money see San Antonio Spurs or Dallas Mavs emoticon.
Thanks for the comment! For those who are serious about winning, this is true! But in some cases, money is also a way to keep people loyal -- see Carmelo Anthony, ha.