Rajon Rondo’s ACL: A Lesson for Startup Leaders

Rajon Rondo is a star NBA player on the Boston Celtics. A four time all-star point guard, he quarterbacks the offense, calling plays and controlling tempo. Rondo’s been having his best year this season. Only one problem: as a team they’ve been mediocre.

Rondo recently tore his ACL and will miss the remaining 39 games of the season. The media lamented Rondo’s injury, collectively asking “What will the Celtics do now??”

The answer: Rattle off seven straight wins.

Here’s what Celtics coach Doc Rivers said about their Rondo-less win streak: “I like our vibe. I like our spirit. We’re playing selfless and free.”

Fact is, Rondo’s teammates don’t seem to like playing with him. He’s been known to yell at teammates, sulk during games, and once smashed the team’s big screen TV with a bottle while they were watching game film.

The streak can’t be solely attributed to Rondo’s absence. Bench players stepped up, and a new offensive scheme was deployed. But there’s no doubt a weight has been lifted. Morale is suddenly flying high.

Like athletes, entrepreneurs can be smart, gifted tacticians who’ve had personal success, but it takes more than all-star cred to be an effective leader. Positivity and team building are crucial to creating a culture that’s upbeat, selfless, and operating at a consistently high level. All-star or not, if a leader can’t foster that, the results will often be mediocre. In the NBA mediocre means you may not make the playoffs. In the startup world, it means failure.

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