Hyo’s note – any article that kicks off with teachings from Bill Walsh is a winner in my book. Good article – read and learn.
One of the NFL’s greatest coaching legends is former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh. In one of his books entitled “The Score Takes Care of Itself,” he lays out his philosophy of leadership that helped to catapult the 49ers from the bottom of the league to three super bowl victories and built a system that won two more after his retirement.
A central theme in Coach Walsh’s philosophy of leadership is teaching. Not only teaching players, but teaching coaches. Not just finding people that will fit into your system, but people who are so hungry that they will eventually leave your organization to create new achievements of their own. This view of leadership and method of coaching is even more remarkable when one considers the competitiveness of the NFL, and how much pressure is placed on coaches to reach impossible levels of success.
This philosophy stands in moderate contrast to the traditional view of a leader as somebody who boldly commands a team to achieve victory. The leadership philosophy of the commander focuses on what happens in the heat of battle. The leadership philosophy of teaching is built on the preparation that precedes the heat of battle, and that most people never notice. The teaching leader does not seek to build a team where everybody does a specific job perfectly… instead, a teaching leader builds a team where each member learns how to grow beyond their current role and become more. The cohesive team functions like a well-oiled machine until one of the team members leaves or cannot serve as part of the team anymore. The growing team continually adapts to a changing environment and makes the adjustments that are necessary for success.
This understanding is especially important, since so much media focus is placed on business and political leaders who portray themselves as commanders who are boldly issuing orders to their army of subordinates to achieve victory. The ultimate problem with such a viewpoint is that it focuses exclusively on what you can see… namely a flashy show that is staged for TV cameras by clever spinsters who have learned to manipulate public sentiment in their favor. What matters much more is what remains unseen… namely the teaching, coaching, and development that turns a team of individuals into a collection of future leaders. Popular culture does not reward true leadership… rather, it rewards the “appearance” of leadership. In the mind of these pseudo leaders, the goal is to appear successful for long enough so that the illusion of success opens up a new opportunity before the lack of teaching and (real) leadership collapses the house of cards.
It is my sincere hope that every person reading this article has a desire to become a teaching leader tho produces real value, instead of a flashy leader who is only interested in the appearance of success. If that is the case (and I suspect that it is), then it is best to focus your efforts on helping the people you work with to learn. Help to expand their horizons and be open to learning from them so that your horizons expand as well. True teachers will frequently learn just as much from their students as their students learn from them. Teaching and learning are not (and should not be) constrained to the time that you spend in school. Learning should be a continual activity and teaching should be a main priority of anybody who is tasked with leading a team toward success.
When people talk about the ‘will to win’ it is frequently interpreted as some form of emotional passion. However, I must deliver a news flash that nearly all leaders (and most team members) are already quite competitive. The “Real” will to win is a willingness to invest the work and preparation that is necessary to achieve success. It means years of preparation for an opportunity that has not emerged yet. It means that when your chance to shine comes, you may not have time to prepare… you must be ready when the opportunity arrives.
Teaching leaders make sure that their team is ready. Teaching leaders help their team to prepare. Teaching leaders do not ‘wait’ for an opportunity to come… they know that opportunity will come eventually, and the only question is whether they are ready. Whether in business or life, always keep this principle in mind. Be ready for opportunity when it finds you, because it will… and if you’re not ready it will walk right past you. Teach your team to be ready for opportunity. Prepare for success, avoid blindly waiting for luck to shine on your fortunes. Focus on teaching, and your team will grow successful. Do the right things, and the score will take care of itself.