Taking Flight: Progressive Leadership Development at the NBA

Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Time: 2:00 PM EST

Duration: 60-minutes

Coming off of the highly successful launch of strategic leadership initiatives in 2015 and 2016, the National Basketball Association’s learning and development team entered 2017 flying high and anticipating that the most rigorous design work was, at least for a time, behind them. Spoiler alert: It was not. While the more tactical, day-to-day leadership development programming was not “broke,” it became clear that the new standards of practice could no longer be met by undertaking a simple refresh. In other words: If it ain’t broke, break it. By applying the lessons learned in the course of designing more advanced and targeted leadership offerings to ground-level transitional programs, they were able to accelerate the development of a new suite of progressive leadership development products that supported the development of people managers companywide and yielded tangible gains in employee engagement across a wide range of manager-specific measures by mid-2018. In this session, Mike Kennedy, the NBA’s learning and development leader, will discuss some of the team’s learnings, such as:

  • Culture trumps competencies: You cannot teach that which is not reinforced.
  • Building one transitional leadership development at a time is a fool’s errand. Commit to concurrent development, or don’t bother.
  • Don’t assume that senior leaders are “above” discussing leadership basics. There is a significant body of leadership content that is level-agnostic — in many cases, facilitation tactics should vary across levels, but the subject matter itself should be relevant across seniority levels. 

Sponsored by:



MK headshot_SQ 

   Mike Kennedy
Learning & Development Leader, Associate Vice President

   NBA Properties Inc. (the National Basketball Association)

Mike Kennedy leads the learning and development team’s design and delivery of innovative, enduring learning solutions for the National Basketball Association’s 1,500 employees worldwide and provides L&D advisory services for all related team entities (NBA, WNBA, NBA G League and 2K). Kennedy was hired as the NBA’s director of L&D in 2012, and in 2015 launched the NBA’s leadership development function, which has since established a new standard of practice within the sports industry and distinguished the league office as a premier developer of top talent. In his time with the NBA, Kennedy has overseen a dramatic expansion of the league’s professional development catalog, implemented its learning management system, and founded the NBA Business Academy to support the growth of the league’s high-potential population. His team was awarded Gold in Brandon Hall’s 2016 Excellence Awards for Best Advance in Leadership Development. Kennedy developed his expertise as a learning strategist, facilitator and organizational analyst in previous roles with KPMG LLP and Tiffany & Co. Kennedy refers to himself as a recovering psychotherapist, having received his BA from Brown and his MA in counseling psychology from Assumption College. He resides in New Jersey with his wife, children and dogs.