Tag Archives: leadership example

Saban or Swinney – “Process” or “Family”

The game.  The moment.  The “field of competition”.  There is nothing as clarifying as the culminating event, the defining moment, that line of demarcation between winning and losing.  Sports is such a great provider of those clearly defined outcomes, and nothing more so than the penultimate “championship game”.  Monday evening again provided one of those moments.  Clemson did not just win the game, they absolutely dominated Alabama.  It has been an interesting four years watching those two programs compete for the National Championship in college football, each having won two.  What makes it all the more interesting is that by definition, the teams to some degree change on an annual basis.  While there is some player continuity on a year to year basis, but after a few years the players completely turnover.  The only true consistent is the head coach.  Unlike their NFL counterparts, the head football coach in college create the programs, the cultures and the environments.

What has become clear is that Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney stand at the pinnacle of their profession.  While Nick Saban has clearly been at the forefront of the college coaching world for well over a decade, the last four years has seen a clear emergence of Dabo Swinney as a truly special coach.  While both share a unique position at the top of their profession, each man clearly has a different leadership style.

Nick Saban is renowned for his focus, his process, his relentless attention to detail, for creating a system that has turned Alabama football into a true dynasty.  A factory producing championships, coveted coaches/coordinators and a host of NFL players.  To a degree his style is coldly professional, results oriented, absolutely committed to excellence, and very clear in that everyone plays a part to ensure the greater team goal is achieved.

Dabo Swinney has created an entirely different culture at Clemson.  His style is open, warm, focused on creating an environment resembling a family, where having fun, maximizing the goals of the individual, and above all instilling a sense of love and passion for the game and for teammates is paramount.  The result has seen Clemson clearly rise to the top, winning two of the last four National Championships while also producing a host of NFL players.  Dabo Swinney’s style has created an environment which from the outside appears to be the antithesis of the Alabama “factory system”.

Thus far, both leadership styles work, just as various leadership styles work in all aspects of life.  The interesting piece is that upon closer examination, Coach Saban and Coach Swinney teach us that their respective styles are not all-inclusive.  There are clearly aspects of each style within the other program.  Early in the season Dabo Swinney made a quarterback change.  He replaced the well liked and respected senior Kelly Bryant with the freshman Trevor Lawrence.  While love, faith and family feel are hallmarks of Dabo Swinney’s leadership style, quantifiable facts and commitment to the overall goal have to take precedence.  He made the hard but right decision.  He made the change, and the rest as the cliché goes, is history.  Conversely, for all the portraits of Coach Saban as detached, cold and strictly process driven, snippets leak out of him taking players water skiing, of he and the staff playing hoops over lunch, of a warmth and personal relationship side to the process driven leader.

Both styles work, but neither works in totality.  Each draws upon the other in various degrees, at different times, and for different reasons.  While consistency and tone are critical components of successful leadership, there will come a time when flexibility and  adaptability are critical traits for the leader and their team.

The leadership style, the feel and culture, the environment and tone are different, Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney absolutely share a relentless work ethic.  They are consummate professionals who are committed to their profession, their universities, their players, their coaches and the attainment of the ultimate goal.  While they might have a different approach, style is nothing without sweat equity.  Leaders have to put in the work.

 

 

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Filed under Coaching, leadership, Sports

Prime Minister Harper – Speaking as a Leader

Everybody loves Canadians.  Sadly, the reality is not quite everybody.  If there is anything that the events of the last few days has brought to the fore, it is that there are people in this world who just flat hate.  They hate people who are not like them, who do not believe as they do, that have the audacity to actively or passively disagree with their beliefs.  It is not a “degree of dislike thing”, it is a binary thing.  It is a sad bit of reality, but seeing it visited upon Canada is all the more wrenching. In times of difficulty, it is the leader who sets the tone, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done that in clear, concise language.

“This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world,” Harper said in his address to the nation. “We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and our institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all. But let there be no misunderstanding. We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.”

There are many things a leader needs to be, but at the very top of that list stands honesty.  A leader must speak the truth.  Sometimes, the message might need a bit of “toning”, but at critical moments, when times are tough, a clear message, spoken in plain language, in all its truth, is the sure sign of a leader.  Prime Minister Harper set the standard.

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As I Say or As I Do

In an interesting way, the “classics” are reinforced in some of the most unorthodox ways.  It is just a product of a wired and connected, youtube, facebook and twitter world – anyone can get their message out.  Long way from the days of Wayne and Garth on local cable access.

Leadership and followership – it is a complex issue that has spawned countless books, lectures, training camps and schools of thought. Then again, it is a topic that can be summed up so well in a brief moment in the very midst of a profanity laced rant that went viral last week.

“I’m not doin’ what you don’t do. You’re the leader, I’m followin’.”

It is that age-old leadership adage in a stripped down format.  “Do as I say, not as I do” was always one of those leadership “isms” that was driven into me from an early age.  Granted Felonious Munk’s rant, while epic, witty and timely, is hardly the stuff to be shown at a leadership conference, the lesson holds.

In the office, on the sports field, in politics, in the home, even in life, it is about what we do, or do not do. Behavior is emulated, copied, and learned.  Those who carry the mantle of being the example have to set the example.  Not talk about it, but do it.  There it is, a take off on the classic “do as I say not as I do” theme. So simple and yet so hard for so many in leadership positions to really grasp – it is in the end all about the example you set.

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Filed under Coaching, Current affairs, leadership