Although several “Big Games” have come and gone since press time, this article brings timeless leadership lessons from the field to the corporate world.
The world of football and business are vastly different. At first look, business plans and football playbooks aren’t comparable. It’s also likely that your employees aren’t well over six-feet tall and nearly 400 pounds. However, the principles used to lead your team at work and those used by a coach or quarterback to win football games are much the same.
With the Super Bowl right around the corner, let’s take a page out of the leadership models of three men synonymous with the big game.
Joe Montana: Be Cool
Montana earned the nickname “Joe Cool” as he led the 49ers to four Super Bowl titles. His most famous display came in the 1989 Super Bowl. He calmly pointed out actor John Candy in the crowd. That was right before charging down the field with under three minutes remaining for the winning touchdown. Montana’s teammates said his calmness rubbed off on them and gave them a sense of confidence.
Rob Shepardson, a corporate strategy specialist, told the New York Times of Montana: “In business, as in football, a quarterback has to take emotion out of the huddle. You must convince players that if they block and receivers run their patterns, you will score a touchdown.” In the execution of plays and corporate strategies, things are bound to go wrong. Circumstances, goals, and procedures will alter. Competitors will surprise you. Government regulations will change. Challenges will come. As a leader, be the stoic figure amongst your team.
Don Shula: Embrace Change
Shula’s career as an NFL player and coach spanned five decades. He coached 19 playoff teams and won two Super Bowls. In that time, he thrived during the run-heavy 70s and coached one of the most pass-happy offenses in history with Dan Marino in the 80s and 90s. How did he do it? Shula understood that when leading a team he had to adapt his strategies to make the most of the talents afforded to him.
Many leaders are praised for their determination to succeed their way and at all costs, but a true leader must be flexible. There’s not only one pathway to success. Understand the strengths of your team and find success in multiple ways.
Chuck Noll: Be A Teacher
Noll won four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. And unlike many of his peers in the coaching world, Noll wasn’t obsessed with being the almighty ruler of his team. Instead, he fancied himself as a teacher.
Upton Bell, who was head of player personnel for the Colts when Noll was an assistant to Don Shula, said of Noll: “With him, teaching is the only thing, developing a man to fulfill his potential. If he does a good job teaching, winning is the natural by-product.” Noll took his love for teaching the game and eventually turned a miserable franchise into one of the most storied brands in the game. Like Noll, a leader should find joy in helping an employee reach their potential. And like the Steelers proved, success will be a natural by-product.
We’ll see what we learn from Super Bowl 2017’s leaders. If these three champions show us anything, it’s that inspirational leadership is found in all professions. Nevertheless it can be utilized across those lines. Whether you’re rooting for the Patriots or for the Falcons, there are bound to be lessons in leadership on game day. Pause and notice what makes certain athletes and coaches great. Take those principles and see if they help you and your team reach your Super Bowl sized goals.
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