Leadership Lessons From The Super Bowl

Leadership Lessons From The Super Bowl

### Well, the Patriots did it again last night. And whether or not you are a fan it’s hard to deny a dynasty when you see one. Their consistency and their ability to play at the highest level for such a long time is very unusual for a sport that has such a short career span. In other words, the people have changed under Bill Belichick’s leadership but the results, for the most part, have not.

Isn’t this what all leaders want? Consistent greatness over time? So, how does he do it? I’m not a football expert but let me surmise a little based on his post-game interview.

In this morning’s press conference, Belichick began by saying that when he began coaching in the NFL in 1975 that he started at the lowest level and he acknowledged that the lowest level was exactly where he should have been. That’s humility. He has just won the biggest sporting event on the biggest stage and instead of crowing about how smart he is, he goes back to his roots and reminds us that we all have to start somewhere and that greatness is earned. I would imagine his players see this in him and appreciate it. People like following humble leaders who can win over and over again without it going to their head.

Secondly, he talked about how he hires coaches who really know their area well and he lets them work and do it their way. That doesn’t mean that he avoids giving them his input. It just means that he probably isn’t micromanaging on a daily basis. For one thing, he doesn’t have the time to do that. And he’s smart enough to know that it’s a fool’s game to surround yourself with smart people and then saddle them with second guessing and smothering, over-reaching input. That doesn’t work anywhere, but it is especially a problem in a successful organization with the relentless pressure to win. Put the right people in the right roles and let them run. That’s your best chance of success.

Which brings us to the 2019 Super Bowl MVP, Julian Edelman. Mr. Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State, a school not exactly known as a football powerhouse. Belichick described this morning how they went about finding Edelman in the first place. He was apparently on no one’s radar screen, but the Patriots scouting department somehow discovered him and found him to be intriguing. They decided to go and work him out and they liked him enough to schedule a second workout. Eventually they drafted him after watching him play a game against Ohio State. Kent State was outmatched and down by several scores but Edelman kept playing with all his heart and soul. The patriots liked that a lot but they had a problem. They have a first ballot hall of fame quarterback named Tom Brady, so what were they going to do with this young draft choice?

They began by sitting him down and asking if he had ever returned punts. He said “no”. And, then they taught him how to return punts so well that he became a top NFL punt returner.

Then, they asked if he had ever played wide receiver and he said “no”. So they taught him how to play wide receiver so well that he will eventually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. And, did I mention that he was the MVP of last night’s game?

So, here is a player who probably would have never been drafted and we would never have known his name who becomes world class in a role he had never played before (two actually).

The lesson here? [Don’t judge a book by its cover. Think out of the box with your people.](https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fjillgriffin%2F2019%2F02%2F04%2Fleadership-lessons-from-the-super-bowl%2F&text=Don%E2%80%99t%20judge%20a%20book%20by%20its%20cover.%20Think%20out%20of%20the%20box%20with%20your%20people.) Find out who they really are and where their strengths and talents lie. Keep in mind that if they have always played quarterback they may not know that they could be great at other things. You have to show them. You have be encouraging and patient.
If you do, get ready for greatness.

Forbes.com Contributor

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