Leadership Lessons from Kevin Plank

UnderArmour CEO Kevin Plank sitting in a chair

Recently I had the chance to moderate leadership session with UnderArmour CEO Kevin Plank. It was billed as a “fireside chat” at the Baltimore Ravens annual sponsor summit. For an hour I had a conversation with Kevin and folded audience questions into the dialogue.

Kevin was more than generous with his time and his insights on leadership in general and his journey in particular.

The leadership lessons Plank has learned from growing UnderArmour from start-up in his grandmother’s basement to a $5-billion dollar a year international brand can benefit anyone looking to grow a business or strengthen his or her position as a leader in their organization.

Here are a few of the thoughts and insights from Kevin Plank that I found most interesting:

The quotes are from Kevin Plank. The observations are mine.

Time Frame:

“We over-estimate what we can do in the short term; we under estimate what we can do in the long term.”

I have heard Microsoft’s Bill Gates say something very similar. When similar ideas emerge from multiple billionaire’s, it catches my attention.

Focus:

“As the organization grows it becomes exponentially important for the leader to narrow his or her focus. You have to edit. Otherwise proliferation swallows your time trying to do too many things for too many people.”

Later in the conversation, I asked Kevin what is the most important use of his time right now. He didn’t hesitate with his answer: “Find and use time for deep thinking.”

Courage:

“Plant your flag. Make a stand. Back your vision by putting your flag in the ground and making it happen.”

Faith in Your Ideas:

“Believing in possibility is crucial. Stop thinking it can’t happen. Why can’t it be us? Why can’t it be now? Marry that belief, that faith, with the courage of planting your flag in the ground. The acts of committing and believing great things can happen have power. Believe great things can happen and great things will happen.”

Experience:

I asked Kevin as a former college football player if he placed a higher value on hiring people who had experience playing team sports.

“Just because you haven’t played on a team doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be a great teammate. The key is finding people who understand the value of putting the good of the group above individual interests. That’s what makes great teammates.”

Enjoy the Journey:

In September of 2015, UnderArmour stock hit a high of $51.86 per share. In November of 2017 it hit a low of $11.61 per share.

“Not every year will be a great year. The tough years teach you that and make you look forward to the great years ahead and not just the great ones behind you. 2018 will be better than 2017. 2019 better than that.”

UnderArmour’s stock is currently double the price of its low point in 2017.

Building a Long-Term Brand:

“We started with a shirt that solved a problem. From there it grew into an idea. And from there it grew into a brand. Ideas have power.

“I’ve always had a dream of creating a brand that lasted the test of time, a 100-year brand. I’ve learned the key to long-term surviving and thriving is a willingness to refine, revise, even reinvent yourself every few years of the journey. And enjoy the journey.”

 

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