LeBron Move: 4 Lessons From King James

Last Updated Jul 12, 2010 10:12 AM EDT

The words "Miami Heat" had barely left LeBron James' lips Thursday night before his former boss, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was trashing his former star, calling the move by the two-time most valuable player a "cowardly betrayal."

"This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown 'chosen one' sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn," Gilbert said in an open letter Cavaliers supporters.

Gilbert couldn't be more wrong. LeBron James' career strategy should be emulated by every ambitious twenty-something in America. James is illustrating exactly how to launch a career that can make you both happy and successful.

What did he do that could help you learn how to manage your career?

Play to win: One of the reasons LeBron was so tough for Cleveland to lose was because he played his heart out in every game. The statistics tell the story: James scored an average of 29 points per game in the 2010 playoffs and nabbed an average of 9.3 rebounds. That's better than the playoff performance of Kobe Bryant on the Championship-winning Los Angeles Lakers. (Kobe also scored an average of 29 points per game, but averaged just 6 rebounds.) Over his seven-year career, LeBron James accounted for some 15,251 points, according to NBA.com. That made him a two-time "most valuable player" and someone other teams wanted to court.

Stats on your job performance probably won't show up on the company web site, but you can be sure that somebody is keeping track of what you do and how well you do it. Your first mission when starting a job is to determine what makes performance in your position extraordinary. Set that as your standard and attempt to meet or exceed it every day.

Look for a team. You could make the coolest widget in America, but if your company's marketing department isn't up to snuff, no one will know that it's out there. Anyone who has been in the workforce for a few years has probably worked for a company that pinched so many pennies that they lost their A-players to competitors willing to pay more for top talent.

There's no point in whining about your lack of support. But if your colleagues consistently drop the ball and your company can't or won't provide the teammates you need to succeed, you need to seek employment where the rest of your team is as talented as you are. James' new teammates, NBA Superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, even agreed to accept smaller salaries so that the three friends could play together. While Gilbert derided James as a 'self-proclaimed king,' Miami Heat broadcaster Eric Reid dubbed them "the three kings." They're a formidable combination.
Know your goals. Six NBA teams vied for James' affections, including New York Knicks, which explained how the Knicks (and no one else) could make the 25-year-old basketball star a billionaire, according to the New York Times. But James said it wasn't money that drove his decision. "Winning is a huge thing for me," he said. The Miami Heat, with the help of his talented teammates Wade and Bosh, offered the best opportunity to win a championship.

Don't react to sour grapes: Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert's rant about James' departure is a classic response of a bad boss when losing a key employee. No doubt, James will be asked a few hundred times in the next few weeks to respond to Gilbert's claim that Cleveland will win a championship before James. But, if he's smart, James will keep his eyes focused on the future -- as he did when being welcomed in Miami Friday night. The best way to respond to a former boss wishing you ill is to live well and prove him wrong.

My money is on the three kings.

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