Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bo Knows Leadership

Michael McKinney has a terrific blog that I read regularly, Leading Blog. Among other topics, he somehow is able to identify great books with leadership applications to all of us. I don't know quite how he gets through them all to find these insights, but it is worth adding to your Favorites.

In a recent post, Michael examines Bo's Lasting Lessons, by former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. In it he details, among the many chapters of Bo's coaching adventure, the lessons of his tour of duty as an assistant under Ara Parseghian. I found several leadership gems that were worth sharing:

- Coach Parseghian, according to Schembechler, was "probably the most imaginative coach I’d ever seen, always adapting his plays to his players instead of the other way around like most coaches do." Sounds like Jim Collins' "first WHO" principle of getting the right people on the bus, then determining where to take it. Investments like this are what allow us to get the most out of our teammate's strengths.

- We can let failures define us or...we can use our setbacks as motivation to take us to the next level. In Schembechler's second year with Parseghian at Northwestern, they lost every game, 0-9. Bo's perspective: "I learned an awful lot from Ara in my first year at Northwestern, but I learned a heckuva lot more from him that second season, when he lost ‘em all. And what I learned was how a real leader leads when things aren’t going his way." We all go through these tough situations. How we deal with them will ultimately define our ability to lead.

- Ara had his staff's back. As a result, they were ready to do anything for him, even during that 0-9 season: "Ara treated the staff as though we were winning every game. He never gave the slightest inclination that we were the problem. He not once blamed any assistant or any player for any loss we suffered that year. NOT ONCE. “Stick with it, guys, and we’ll get through this,” he’d tell us. “We’re going to be okay.” We all kept busting our butts for Ara, working past midnight, doing everything we could to get that guy a victory." That has certainly been my own experience. If we listen to our subordinates, include them in decision making, empower and inspire them, they will usually reward us with their absolute best and with the sweat-equity and late nights that may be required to "turn a losing season around."

And that was enough to inspire at least one coach, Bo Schembechler, to become a great leader of his own. That ultimately is how we might measure the greatness of a leader - namely in the leaders that they produce, and in the leadership lessons that they transmit in their words and deeds, from coach to assistant to players. Ara produced Bo. And Bo, like his coach Ara Parseghian, produced champions. I've heard him speak...and Bo knows leadership!

That's Leader Business.

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