Leadership

Leadership lessons that helped 5 coaches win 17 Super Bowls

Chuck Noll, Bill Belichick, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs and Vince Lombardi are legends in the world of football. With a combined 25 Super Bowl appearances and 17 wins, these five men became world-famous, earned millions, and won awards.

But as you study each of these great leaders, you realize that the fame, money and accolades were all secondary in their pursuit of the NFL's ultimate prize.

Here's a look at the leadership thinking behind the greatest coaching legends in football history.

Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi being carried by Green Bay Packers players after defeating the Dallas Cowboys.
Bettmann | Getty Images
Vince Lombardi being carried by Green Bay Packers players after defeating the Dallas Cowboys.

"Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile."

Takeaway: It's easy to believe that people in positions of power were simply made for the job. They make it seem easy, even effortless. Like they were born to lead. What we never see, and what I wish we'd see more, was the process, the hard work, the effort and strain and sleepless nights and tears. Jay Z should talk less about champagne and more about the hard work of being a father. 50 Cent should talk less about getting shot and more about eating clean and working out two hours per day.

"Overnight success" rarely happens in a decade or less.

Bill Belichick

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
Maddie Meyer | Getty Images
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick

"Every game is an important game for us. Doesn't matter what's the next week — who we play, whether it's a bye week, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, Columbus Day. We don't care. We're just trying to go out there and win a game."

Takeaway: Leaders show up on Mondays and are the last to leave on Fridays. Email day gets just as much focus as launch day. Practice matters just as much as game day.

Chuck Noll

Head Coach Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers watching the action from the sidelines during a mid circa 1970's NFL football game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Focus On Sport | Getty Images
Head Coach Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers watching the action from the sidelines during a mid circa 1970's NFL football game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"I'm really not a celebrity; I'm just a teacher."

Takeaway: Good leaders realize they're not special. They aren't famous for the sake of being famous. They eschew the celebrity lifestyle in order to stay focused on their mission. As Vince Lombardi said, "Success demands singleness of purpose."

A good leader is a coach, a teacher, a mentor, a counselor and a friend. They aren't rock stars. They don't demand attention. They don't gloat and preen and rest on their laurels and brag about their past successes. They lead by serving, by doing, by going the extra mile.

Joe Gibbs

Former head coach Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins
Patrick Smith | Getty Images
Former head coach Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins

"The key to being a good manager or a good entrepreneur is to pick the right people. Pick the right people, and they'll make you look good."

Takeaway: The greatest leaders are never those who accomplish a feat on their own. Leaders lead: a team, a company, a group, an army, a nation. They attract other leaders. They develop a leadership culture.

Bill Walsh

Head coach Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers
Focus On Sport | Getty Images
Head coach Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers

"Others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations."

Takeaway: Strong leadership is based on the example you set and the culture you create. As Bill Walsh said: "The culture precedes positive results. It doesn't get tacked on as an afterthought on your way to the victory stand. Champions behave like champions before they're champions: They have a winning standard of performance before they are winners."

Every leader calls their people to a standard of performance. For some, it's lazy, full of shortcuts. For others, it's domineering perfectionism or a growth-inspiring pursuit of a high-quality, achievable goal.

As Vince Lombardi said, "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

Notice a theme?

"Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results, the process rather than the prize," said Bill Walsh.

If there's a word that sticks out with all of these coaches, it's process. Joe Gibbs once said that "a winning effort begins with preparation." Chuck Noll added, "If you want to win, do the ordinary things better than anyone else does them day in and day out."

Winning, for these five men, was a product of process. Winning is a secondary validation — the outer affirmation of the inner effort.

Leaders keep their head down.

They do the work.

They win.

Jared A. Brock is the author of the eBook "The Effectiveness Equation."

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