Mar 13, 2014

Lessons in Leadership from Vince Lombardi

No matter how great your talent is in your organization, without a strong and effective leader, nothing else matters.  As you’ll see in this post, a poor leader doesn’t have the ability to bring out even mediocre performance from normally top-performing people.  But, a great leader, like Vince Lombardi, can bring out the very best from people who would normally be mediocre or low-performers.  This ability truly fits the definition of being a Transformational Leader.

There are many definitions of what a leader is. I believe those are just labels. A leader isn’t defined by labels and titles; they define who they are by their beliefs, emotions, and actions. You see, a leader is a person who is able to make core changes to an organization that will increase its worth and value, not just monetarily, but environmentally and socially, too. Because of having a vision to take the organization to a place its never been, risk is involved, and leaders aren’t afraid of risk, they are afraid of the organization being static. And, they may fail from time to time because they are willing to try new things and take chances.

Transformational Leaders to also understand how to manage systems and processes, because this means they understand the tactical part of the decisions they make.  You might compare the leader to an artist, and the manager to a technician. It’s the leader’s role to come up the vision or idea, and it is the manager’s plan to implement this idea and know how to make changes from the Intended Strategy to the Emergent Strategies to the Realized Strategy. The Transformational Leader will not only have innate leadership skills, but also have the capability to manage and operate on a day-to-day basis. It is this rare breed, this elite few, who have that indefinable extra trait that lead the way in their respective fields.

Transformational Leaders mentor and develop subordinates, providing them with challenging opportunities, working one-on-one to help them meet their professional and personal goals, and encouraging people to approach problems from new perspectives. Like themselves, Transformational Leaders encourage their people to take risks, disrupt the usual, and become leaders themselves by blazing trails for the organization to greater success now, and into the future. They stimulate employees to look beyond personal interests to those of the group; how they can contribute to the success of the group, become more significant in their contributions. Lombardi is quoted as having said, “I have no tolerance for the halfhearted, the defeatist” because the goal was to be “world champions, every day…relentless in the pursuit of victory”.

Lombardi’s Trinity of Football Success was 1) Repetition, 2) Confidence and 3) Passion. And, the three things he valued most in life were “God, family and the Green Bay Packers”. Because Lombardi gave everything to his team and modeled what he expected, all he asked from the players was to do the same for him. Because of these beliefs and standards, the players knew they had somebody worthy of their respect. Lombardi was able to encourage the heart of all of his players and they were always willing to play their hearts out for him.

What would you be willing to do to have your people exert the same effort that the players did for Lombardi? What would it mean to the culture of your organization? What would it mean to the top and bottom lines of your company? Fully consider it and let me know if I can help you build a process to make it a reality.

Creating life in forward motion,
Dr. Edward Lewellen