Mastering Authentic Leadership with Craig Sager & James Kerr

When it comes to personal growth and working towards maximizing my potential, I am a pretty simple person. The two things I put great emphasis on are reading and relationships, which is not altogether a unique approach. Here is where I separate myself from those who pay lip service to these two things: I do not just read, but I study. As far as relationships go, I intentionally add as much value to each developing relationship as possible.

As chance would have it, both my reading and relationships intersected last week. I finished one of the best books on Leadership I have read in quite some time, Legacy – What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life by James Kerr. The All Blacks are the most successful rugby team ever, and some call them the most successful sports team ever. Later in the week, I was fortunate enough to attend the tribute to Craig Sager at our Batavia High School gym, as Craig was from Batavia. Were it not for the relationships I developed during my coaching and playing days, I would have missed Craig’s tribute, which was a truly impactful event.

So . . . What is My Point?


What does one have to do with the other? Well, one of my favorite chapters of James Kerr’s book–and one of my core values–is Authenticity.

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I can think of no better word to describe Craig Sager than Authentic. See, Craig was determined to live the life he envisioned for himself. I could spend a great deal of time sharing some of the remarkable Sager stories I have heard, but instead, I encourage you to check out this article for a great look at the man and the impact he had on others’ lives. In each shared story, it becomes apparent how in tune with himself Craig was, and that he believed in himself so much that he was not going to change for anyone. Authenticity begins with honesty and integrity, which is why it empowers us to author our own lives. As James Kerr points out in Legacy, authenticity allows us to make our own original imprint and to write our own story in a voice that is true to our values. This is how Craig made his imprint, and wrote his own story.

The amazing thing is that Craig Sager came from this small town of Batavia, IL. Sure, Dan Issel and Ken Anderson also grew up here, but Batavia is as far from the lights and glamor of the NBA as possible. In a society where peer pressure and social forces combine to influence us to disown our own values, Craig never changed who he was nor what he represented.

Time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God, and it is not in endless supply. Time is simply how you live your life.

– Craig Sager

Speaking of time, click here to receive a FREE copy of my eBook: 6 Steps to Successfully Planning a Powerful Day.

Authenticity = Honesty + Integrity



Honesty allows you to develop a strong sense of self-identity and to believe in yourself. Being honest with yourself requires you to answer some questions which include:

  • Why am I here?
  • What is my purpose here?
  • How should I use my time here?
  • How am I doing?

The benefits of honesty include:

  • Increase in our self-awareness
  • Ability to access our truest vision of ourselves
  • Strong foundation for when setbacks occur
  • Trust building


Integrity is what gets the job done. Most people think of integrity as morality, but James Kerr points out that it is more accurate to think of it as workability. It is the ethical accuracy of our actions based on our thoughts and deeds behaving as ‘one.’

Integrity is the alignment of our:

  • Core values
  • Beliefs
  • Behaviors

It is not enough to have a compelling purpose, high expectations, and clear goals. We have to take action, and by doing so, our thoughts will become more committed, intentional, decisive, and powerful.
The benefits which result from doing something when we say it will get done are:

  • Trust
  • Belief
  • Respect

If we allow ourselves to get distracted, overwhelmed, or pulled in the wrong direction, then our level of integrity can dip, and slippage will occur. As Kerr points out:

“By being aware of integrity slippage, we can cultivate discipline, intention, and action, both personally and within our teams. Integrity on an organizational level will provide clarity, certainty, productivity, and momentum.

– James Kerr

Dan Issel shared several stories about Craig Sager on Thursday evening. It is fair to say that most of the stories drew laughter and made folks smile, but there were a few that had everyone choked up. Regardless, each and every story solidified what I had always heard about Craig. He was a man of his word.

This is where the world of James Kerr’s book Legacy and Craig Sager’s legacy came together for me. See, James points out that, “If we speak with integrity, our word becomes our world; a commitment, a declaration of our intent, a generative force. It allows us to speak with optimism and possibility, resilience and determination, decisiveness and authority. It helps us survive any setback. And it helps us begin the long climb back upwards again.”

“With an authentic voice, we have authority.”

“We can author our own story.”

In other words, we can live like Craig Sager did until the very end.

Click here to watch Craig Sager’s acceptance speech of the Jim Valvano Courage Award at the 2016 ESPY’s. In addition to Craig’s speech, this video includes Joe Biden’s presentation along with a video tribute to Craig. Well worth the 20 minutes!

I would highly recommend you check out James Kerr’s book if you haven’t already read it. I’d love to share my chapter notes with you on Authenticity. Sign up below and I’ll email you a copy right away!


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