WNBA’s Michelle Snow: Don’t Dictate To People, Empower Them

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Snow offers lessons she acquired on leading oneself and leading others from some of the greatest minds in basketball, including legendary coach Pat Summitt.

Michelle Snow was a two-time WNBA All-Star and the first woman to dunk in a nationally televised basketball game. After 16 years of professional basketball, Snow now brings the lessons she learned on the court to Nike!

At six-foot-five inches tall, the Pensacola native commands a sweeping view of the impact sports can have on business leadership. Among the most memorable of the lessons she learned came while she played basketball at the University of Tennessee, where legendary coach Pat Summitt prepared a generation of young women to succeed in basketball and life.

“The biggest things Pat taught us were, first, that if you’re on the basketball court, it should never be silent,” Snow explained. “She was talking about communication. Things are always moving fast on the court, so you have to be constantly communicating to leverage each moment. The second lesson was not to dictate to other people, but rather to empower them.”

In the corporate world, says Snow, things move just as quickly and can take a turn for the highly unexpected just as quickly as in sports. The Covid pandemic illustrated this. With a touch of irony, perhaps, Snow says that the best way to empower people and ensure a noisy court full of communicating teammates is for leaders to be quiet, at least at first. So, when she holds her routine “huddles” with her Nike team, the woman with a voice used to shouting over the din of opposing players and cheering crowds remains quiet, allowing others to speak.

“People want to be valued, seen and heard,” she noted. “Your job as a leader is to give them this opportunity and find alignment with their thoughts and dreams and those of the organization.” In the podcast, Snow shows her agility at applying the habits of successful athletic competition to the conference table. Listeners will get to learn:

  • The 3 questions you can ask yourself to keep moving forward and learning from mistakes.
  • The 4 pillars that make “brilliant brainstorming” your greatest leadership tool.
  • Why every leader should wear a “whatchamacallit” to stand out.
  • The benefit of practicing the most underestimated quality — helpfulness.
  • The lesson boxing great Roy Jones, Jr. taught her about mentorship when she was only 11 years old.

Snow knows she owes her success to a combination of effort and perseverance and the network of people who brought her along on their own journies. “As you progress in your life, you’ll only be alone if you don’t bring someone along with you,” she observed. Snow has been mentored by some of the best and she constantly reaches back to make sure that she is bringing others along. “They say birds of a feather flock together, right?” noted Snow. “I’m meeting all of these people who are extraordinary in their own ways, and who have a viewpoint that everything is limitless, and anything is possible. It’s just a matter of connecting yourself with those types of individuals.”

Well, maybe it’s time you connected with Michelle Snow? You can get started on this episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast.

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Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.