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Lindsey Berg, USA Volleyball

US National Volleyball Team Setter and Beijing Olympic Silver Medalist Lindsey Berg shares her insights on leadership.

How did you evolve into a leader?

What a good question. Truthfully, I don’t remember when I wasn’t a leader. My memory gets worse and worse as the years go on… but I do remember when I was competitively playing at 10 years old (the youngest on the team) at the Davis Volleyball Tournament… and I was a leader then. I was either born to be a leader or was provided with the necessary skills to become one… and I took them and ran.

I was a leader at a very young age, and I probably didn’t realize the exact impact I had on a team back then. It came natural to me. But as I got older, others recognized this and would bring it to my attention. When it was brought to my attention I was able to become even a better leader.

It helps when you are one of the best at what you do… but it doesn’t automatically make you a leader. I would have to say it is harder to be a leader than to be good at the sport or job you do. I have learned that some can lead with actions, some can lead with words… but the leaders that set themselves apart are the ones that do both.

I am still evolving as a leader. Every year I play with different players. I learn so much every year about different people, how they operate, how certain people affect the dynamics of teams, how to overcome or use certain people to make the team the best it can be, and so on.

I can say I become a better leader everyday. Some days I question myself… What could I have done better or how could I have handled a certain situation better? It becomes a learning process when you reach a certain point where you can recognize, understand, and criticize your own leadership skills.

My experience in my sport has made a huge impact on the type of leader I am. I have grown up playing volleyball with an amazing support system that has made me the player and leader I am today. My leadership qualities, competitiveness, and heart have helped me get as far as I have just as much as my volleyball skills.

What does it take to be an effective leader for a team?

Sacrifice, communication, people skills, commitment, intensity, and heart are just some words that immediately come to mind when ask what it takes.

Sacrifice because sometimes you have to just put your ego aside and do whatever possible for the team and the people around you. Sometimes you have to take more responsibility than is really yours. Taking the blame is sometimes involved, whether right or wrong. Sacrifice because you are giving a lot more time to the team. A lot more energy. It is a constant mental exercise. As a leader you are giving more of yourself then you could even imagine.

Communication might be the most important. As a leader you are constantly communicating… with everyone. Learning how to communicate in an effective way is a never ending lesson. To be an effective leader you need to learn how to communicate in many many different ways to get the most out of everyone on the team. A certain way of communication will work with one, but could be disastrous for another. As a leader it is your job to figure this out… which goes along with people skills.

Having people skills allows you to learn more about people, to find the most effective ways of communicating, and dealing with the different people. Without people skills and the desire to learn about others and really pay attention to them, being a leader is not possible. It is truly a commitment. You are putting yourself out there for the team. You have committed to doing the most you can for the team in every aspect. A leader is always thinking, “What more can I do for the team?”

A leader is committed to setting an example. I used the word intense… I don’t know exactly how to explain how that goes with a leader because there are definitely people that are more intense than others and use intensity in different ways. I can only speak about myself. On the court my intensity level is off the charts. I make up for all of the others on the court that might be lacking it. Do I think it is a requirement for being an effective leader? No… but it sure has helped me. The intensity proves my commitment to what I am doing.

And the last word that came to me was Heart. A leader is doing everything with their heart. Playing, communicating, encouraging, criticizing positively, all with heart. If everything else fails there is always heart. And an effective leader is never lacking that.

What must a leader do off the court?

This definitely varies at different levels, at least in my sport. Of course a leader at the high school level is not going to have as many responsibilities as one in the college or professional level. But I can say, in general, just overall leading by example, making responsible decisions.

But the older we get, and at more of a professional level, sometimes the personal life and off the court don’t become as relevant, because everyone has their own personal life. But having a healthy relationship on and off the court with teammates is very helpful for a leader.

Respect for one another will lead to a good team situation. And when problems arise, having good relationships will help solve problems and eventually make the team better.

As a leader I am always evaluating how I did that day or game as a leader, not necessarily my play. What could I have done better? Could I have handled some situations differently? Did I do absolutely all I could do to put the team in the best situation mentally? These are the type of questions that go through my head when I am self evaluating… and that normally happens everyday when I get home or when I have free time to let my mind go. Sometimes when I know someone was struggling I will call them or write them a message. A leader always has the team on their mind on and off the court.

LINDSEY BERG BIO

Lindsey Berg, originally from Honolulu, HI, started her volleyball career at Punahou School, alma mater of President Barack Obama and named #1 high school athletic program by Sports Illustrated in 2008.

Berg competed for the Golden Gophers at the University of Minnesota from 1998-2001 leading the program to their first sweet 16 appearance under current coach Dr. Mike Hebert. Berg was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and finished her collegiate career in 2001 ranked third in the Big Ten in all-time assists (5,913).

Berg joined the US National Team in 2003 and has competed in both the Athens Olympics in 2004 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where the team took home the silver medla. She also competes professionally in Italy, most currently leading her Villa Cortese team to the Serie 1A finals in May of 2010.

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