Once in a great while, an athlete comes along who performs incredible in-sport feats, all of which pale in comparison to the kind of man or woman they are outside the sport. On Wednesday night, that elite group slipped a member’s jacket over the shoulders of Dwyane Wade.
That’s when Wade played his last NBA game, suiting up for the Miami Heat, who narrowly missed making the playoffs. The Heat lost to the Brooklyn Nets 113-94 but Wade managed 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists–the coveted triple-double.
The class act delivered his final act in front of opposing but adoring fans who gave him repeated standing ovations. Also in attendance were friends LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony–an indication of just how respected Wade is.
After the game, Wade thanked all the people who helped him along the way–one classy final assist.
You could be dazzled by Wade’s on-court accomplishments: three NBA championships, 12 consecutive All-Star Game appearances, 2006 Finals MVP honors, and his 2009 scoring title. But Wade’s greatest skill isn’t his basketball prowess. It’s his in-all-ways impressive emotional intelligence, a skill he wields as a leader that every leader should strive to emulate.
In 2011, Wade’s Heat unexpectedly lost in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. Throughout the season, superstar teammates Wade and LeBron James showed friction that needed mending.
After that Finals loss, their families took a vacation together to the Bahamas. Wade recently told Sports Illustrated that the 2011 season made him realize LeBron was better than he was. It made him want to better himself–off the court. He made his move to do so during that family vacation. As he told SI:
I knew that LeBron could go to a level that I couldn’t go to. And I wanted to take a little bit of that “looking over his shoulder” mentality away. So I said, go ahead bro, be your great self and we will all figure out how to be great around you.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said this of the gesture:
How many guys are willing to do that? He’s emotionally stable and has an incredible emotional intelligence. That’s when our team really took off, when LeBron was able to be the best player on the galaxy. Dwyane kicked that off.
Wade’s astonishing EQ was celebrated on Tuesday in a now-viral Budweiser ad that honors him for being “so much more than basketball.” Watch for yourself, but be warned, your defenses are useless. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball fan or not: You will need a tissue.
The video lauds Wade for honoring Joaquin Oliver–a Parkland shooting victim who idolized Wade–by writing his name on his sneaker. For taking a family on a shopping spree after their house burned down. For paying full college tuition for a girl whose family couldn’t afford it. For giving words of encouragement to a young man who hailed from a place where people don’t fare well. For supporting his wayward mother through a prison sentence, and buying her a church thereafter.
Wade, as one of the people in the video points out, simply cares.
Of the commercial, Wade said last night on NBA TV, “The people in the commercial reminded me of why I try to be more than basketball.”
Dwyane Wade is so much more than basketball. The best leaders are so much more than business.
That’s the core of emotional intelligence. You either care or you don’t. There’s no gray zone. What’s trickier is whether or not you show it. Intent is the false idol of many a leader.
The single biggest thread connecting all the best, most memorable leaders for whom I’ve ever worked was their effortless way of showing they cared. They didn’t have to work hard to care. They just did. It can be that way for you too–it’s a choice, a matter of prioritization.
Here’s a simple trick you can employ for those harried days when it’s easy to forget that the troops want to know you care about them. Remember the number 29. Is that a new status symbol–29 is the new 30? The legal drinking age in Bulgaria?
No–it’s a percentage, as in only 29 percent of 1,000 employees I surveyed said they felt their boss genuinely cared about them. Or maybe the inversion of that number, 71, is a better prompt for you, as in 71 percent believe their boss doesn’t genuinely care about them. This is one number you don’t want to hit as a leader.
One thing I can say with great pride about my own leadership is that I’ve never seen myself as “in business,” despite being in business for 30 years. I’ve always been in the people business. And business was always good, which meant–not coincidentally–that business was always good.
Dwyane Wade is now retired. His number will be retired too, soon enough. But his role-model ability to care–those are shoes he’ll never hang up.
Nor should you. And if you haven’t laced yours up yet as a leader, game on.