Calipari had much more to say on leadership, building relationships during Rotary visit

Coach John Calipari’s annual visit with the Rotary Club of Lexington was, as always, a tremendous hit with our members and guests.

Cal’s focus at the Oct. 3 meeting was on leadership, bridging the generational gap, and building relationships that translate into winning teams in an age where there has been less focus on one-on-one conversations and more on sensationalism created by social media. While a tweet can bring with it a moment’s worth of attention and notoriety, the deep, meaningful relationships he builds with his players, last a lifetime and go far beyond the basketball court.

I was disappointed to see the only coverage by the Lexington Herald-Leader that came from Cal’s talk was focused solely on his tongue-in-cheek response to a member’s question regarding calls made by referees officiating University of Kentucky men’s basketball games.

Calipari opened his remarks by comparing transactional leadership to transformational leadership and drawing parallels from the latter to Rotary and our mantra, “Service Above Self”. Transactional leadership styles are more concerned with maintaining the normal flow of operations, using disciplinary power and an array of incentives to motivate employees to perform at their best. Transactional leaders motivate by exchanging rewards for performance. Transformational leadership styles focus on teambuilding, motivation and collaboration to accomplish change for the better. In short, doing something with an expectation of getting something in return for our actions versus doing something for the greater good. To continue the success he’s created, Cal must take the approach of a transformational leader. The same holds true for all Rotarians.

Cal went on to talk about the importance of communication and how in a world of one-or two-word texts and short emails, it’s easy to misinterpret the true meaning of the message. He encouraged us as business and community leaders to make Fridays a no texting day and to engage our clients, customers, and stakeholders in face to face and phone conversations.

Calipari spoke at length about the importance of this players learning more than just basketball during their time at UK. “It’s our responsibility to prepare them for a real world that’s different from what we grew up with,” he said. He indicated that one percent of all college basketball players get drafted into the NBA. Kentucky boasts a staggering 70% of their basketball players turning pro with 75% of those players receiving a second contract. Currently, former UK players are making $2B in playing contacts. To Cal’s point, there is an obligation to prepare them for the pressure and accountability that comes from fortune and fame.It’s a special thing to see the commitment this coach has to his players both during their time with him at UK and, more importantly, as they make their way in the world as leaders and role models.

Equally special has been Cal’s commitment to the Bluegrass as a whole and service organizations like Rotary. Coach Calipari has graciously accepted the invitation to speak with our club each year since he arrived in 2009. It would be a shame if he stopped accepting our invite and the requests of similar volunteer organizations if he feels his comments will be taken out of context and only a sentence or two is printed from his 45 minute presentation. Members of the media, especially veteran journalists, should know better and either report on the entire story or not report it at all.

Rotary is represented by 33,000 autonomous clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. There is a global network of 1.2 million Rotarians made up of business, professional, and community leaders, all volunteering their time and talents to serve their com unities and the world. As of 2018, the Rotary Club of Lexington was the 25th largest in the world.

This Op-Ed was submitted on behalf of The Rotary Club of Lexington by Gerald H. Marvel, 2019-2020 Club President