7 Leadership Lessons From A NFL Executive

In the July 23rd edition of the USA Today, there is a great article on former head coach and current Cleveland Browns team president Mike Holmgren. Holmgren is a great leader with a superlative resume. The following is a list of his accomplishments:

  • 170-111 overall record in 17 years of coaching.
  • 15 times finished first or second in his division.
  • Molded quarterbacks Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, and Matt Hasselback.
  • Coached two different teams (Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks) to the Super Bowl and had three Super Bowl appearances overall.
  • 1996 Super Bowl champion.

In Jon Saraceno’s article, the following are the leadership lessons we learn from this coach-turned-executive.

  1. Stable Leadership – Team owner Al Lerner passed away in 2002.  Since then, the Browns’ front office has been characterized by instability and poor drafts. There have been four team presidents, six general managers, and five head coaches. During that time the Browns have had a combined 38-74 (34%) record.  Leaders, are you cultivating consistency and continuity in your organization? 
  2. Failure Is Never Final – Holmgren was originally hired in 1998 as Seattle’s Executive Vice President/General Manager and head coach. After four seasons, he was stripped of his executive responsibilities.  Freed up to focus solely on coaching, the Seahawks appeared in the Super Bowl three years later. Leaders, have you embraced the value of failure?
  3. Quick and Decisive Decisions – As a coach, Holmgren was a master strategist who approached the game like chess and enjoyed making quick decisions. His undoing as a GM was partially because of an inability to make quick personnel decisions.  Leaders, are you identifying and then making 2010 decisions now?  Or are you making 2010 decisions in 2011 or even later?
  4. Capacity – Having the two jobs in Seattle resulted in Holmgren not being able to focus on what he needed to.  Leaders, do you know how much you can effectively handle?
  5. Talent – Holmgren’s first priority as team president was hiring the right coach.   He decided to retain current head coach Eric Mangini.  The second priority was acquiring better talent.  Leaders, as important as your role is, are you acquiring great talent? 
  6. Influence – Holmgren learned his leadership style under former 49er coach Bill Walsh.  He now grooms Mangini.  It is a relationships that Mangini values and states “If someone helps you avoid mistakes, you would be foolish not to embrace them.”  Leaders, who have you chosen to invest your life in?
  7. Family – As driven and a perfectionist as Holmgren is, I was impressed with his work as a missionary and the reality that the geographic separation from his family (three of his four daughters live in the Pacific Northwest) is hard on him.  Leaders, your occupation is important.  However, your faith and family are the two most important things in your life?  

Each year because of parity, the NFL always has a team that seemingly comes from nowhere to be competitive.  The Browns are my pick to fill that role this year.  To read why, click here.

Leaders, if you have stability in executive leadership, utilize failure, understand your limitations, make quick and decisive decisions, acquire talent, leverage your influence, and keep faith and family first, you are on your way to becoming a leader who can increase your capacity and exceed your potential.

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

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