Sports metaphors are used to teach leadership more than perhaps any other method. I think the reason for that is obvious – team situations provide grounds for learning to follow, and learning to lead.
My NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks is going to the SUPER BOWL for the second year in a row! That gives me perfectly good reason to use a sports metaphor about leadership.
Pete Carroll – I call him re-Pete Carroll – is the head coach for the Hawks. The quarterback is Russell Wilson. Two great men who have been on a leadership odyssey, and whom have proven to be outstanding in their field. The football field. Actually, I suppose they weren’t standing. They were running in their field. They couldn’t win if they were just standing…..
Coach Carroll has coached many players on many teams. His odyssey finally brought him to Seattle, and it has been his leadership that has influenced a winning team.
In a recent article by Pat Kirwan titled, Super Bowl 49: How Pete Carroll Came to Mold Champion Seahawks, the author describes how Pete Carroll possess the SELF leadership traits that make exceptional leaders. Sacrifice, Empowerment, Love and Friendship.
Sacrifice – The article states, His players find it difficult to believe his age (63) because of his energy level. Whether it’s running around at practice, or looking for a player to go one on one with on the basketball court, he never seems to drag.
“I never saw him yawn around the office late at night working on a game plan,” one of his coaches said the other day.
It takes sacrifice of sleep, time and energy to coach a football team of grown men. The expectations are tremendous. Coach Carroll obviously understands the sacrifice, and gladly accepts it all for the sake of influencing the team.
Empowerment – His ability to understand his players, and to teach them how to not only work hard, but refocus when necessary is described in the article this way – The competitive spirit of Seahawks practices has been well-chronicled, but what is unique about his upbeat workouts — going back to his USC days — are his attempts to distract players (open-to-the-public workouts, blaring music) to teach focus. There’s even a basketball hoop in the team’s big meeting room. Players are regularly trying to make a shot. On the spur of the moment he stops meetings, calling for a shooting contest.
The last time I was there, the kickers beat the defensive line and the players erupted with cheers and boos, only to settle down seconds later and refocus.
Love – Service is the key to leadership, and even in a testosterone-high environment, exceptional leaders find time to serve unrelated to the job. Pete Carroll is an example of charitable love. The article states….
1. When he coached the Patriots, my cousin — a big Patriots fan — was diagnosed with cancer. Carroll called every week and convinced my cousin he’d get better, keeping his hopes alive. My cousin got better and never forgot Carroll’s efforts.
2. When Carroll was looking for a strength and conditioning coach at USC, he got a call from Chris Carlisle. Carlisle disclosed he had cancer, to which Carroll responded: “Then get out here and get to work so you get better.”
3. One night when we were driving home from work and saw a car with a flat tire on the side of the road. A mother and her two boys were standing outside the car, looking upset. Upon noticing the boys were wearing Steelers shirts, Carroll said to pull over. When he got out of the car, he said we’d fix the flat if the boys traded their Steelers gear for Jets shirts.
Friendship – Pete Carroll is concerned about his friends – even those who work for him – Loyalty to staff members shows up in his efforts to get them better jobs than they already have. I asked him about losing a few assistants because of the Seahawks’ success, and he said he was trying to help two more assistants get coordinator jobs.
Pete Carroll is an exceptional leader. He has mastered well the SELF-ish leader. Sacrifice, Empowerment, Love and Friendship. I believe we’ll see examples of all four traits on the field this Sunday at the Super Bowl.