It’s often said that every great leader is also a great reader, staying informed through various forms of media. AMSG CEO Jim O’Farrell immerses himself in books, podcasts, and articles on leadership to gain insight from different perspectives.

We’d like to start sharing Jim’s favorites and latest finds in a new segment called: The Learning Leader.

This month’s pick came to Jim through an unconventional method; he found the book while watching the FX TV show The Bear. Without giving away any spoilers for those not caught up, during season 2 of the dramedy, there are several references to Coach K’s book, Leading with the Heart. Coach K served as the basketball head coach at Duke University from 1980 to 2022, during which he led the Blue Devils to five national titles, 13 Final Fours (the most of any coach), 15 ACC tournament championships, and 13 ACC regular season titles. Krzyzewski is widely regarded as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. Side note: Coach K didn’t know his book was featured on The Bear until he started receiving texts from friends telling him; now he’s hoping they’ll ask him to do a cameo on the show!

How might a book published in 2000 written by a basketball coach featured on a television show based around a chaotic sandwich shop offer advice for a government contracting leader?

Here’s why Jim recommends Leading with the Heart:

I always appreciated Coach K as a winning coach, who kept his cool in some of the biggest NCAA games. However, Leading with the Heart reveals how Coach K’s leadership philosophy is a direct result of his experiences growing up, West Point journey, and early coaching years. Here are my favorite “Coach K’s Tips” from the book:

  • Leaders instill respect for authority by having a caring attitude, by being direct, by communicating regularly, and by being honest.
  • Failure is part of success.
  • If you’re always striving to achieve success that is defined by someone else, you’ll always be frustrated. Define your own success.
  • In leadership, no word is more important than trust.
  • Win or lose together.
  • Members of your team need to see themselves through your eyes — so that they may see how they really are, not how they think they are.
  • You do not necessarily beat fear with a hug. Sometimes you have to attack the hell out of it.
  • When you screw up, admit you are wrong. Apologize in front of the whole team. To admit a mistake is not a weakness, it’s a strength.

Check out Leading with the Heart and stay tuned for Jim’s upcoming recommendations!


Introduction written by: Sheila Rupp