Leadership Lessons from Watching Football

TV footballNext time someone gives you a hard time for lying around watching football, tell them you’re studying leadership. It may not get you out of the doghouse, but it sure sounds a lot more responsible. If they press you for specifics, tell them you’re observing the quarterback:

1. “Notice, there’s only one quarterback.” When the ball is hiked, it goes to one person. He’s the guy you listen to, the guy ultimately responsible to do something good with the football. This is unity of command. This should be the same with every issue and aspect of your organization. It should be clear who’s in charge and who people should to listen to.

2. “He gives it away most of the time.” Usually when a quarterback gets the ball, he delivers it to someone else: he either hands it to a running back or throws it to a receiver and let’s them do what they do best. Quarterbacks specialize in delivery. As a leader, practice your delivery – how you delegate and to whom you delegate should be one of your specialties. Note: when the plan calls for it or the situation demands it, be ready to run with the ball yourself.

3. “See the target; feel the pressure.” Quarterbacks can’t get fixated on their receivers (they’ll get sacked from behind) or on the defensive line that’s rolling toward them (they’ll miss the open receiver downfield). As a leader you’ve got to focus on your objective, while at the same time feeling the reality of your situation. It doesn’t work the other way around – you can’t look at the pressure and expect to feel your target.

What has watching or playing sports taught you about leadership?

9 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from Watching Football”

  1. i totally agree. at my business we emphasize quite often with a critical project that one person must carry the ball from start to finish, to ensure quality control and that everything gets done without miscommunication or error. At the same time that pressure is also a motivation; everyone’s watching you, the end zone goal is clear, so time to perform!

  2. I liked the part about giving it away. I tend to find challenges balancing that part. Sometimes I am a total control freak. Which doesn’t allow my team to grow. Other times I put too much expectation on a person to gain a result not to see it carried through.

    1. I’m with you Carl. Not only does limiting delegation limit my team – it also limits my personal effectiveness. A good rule of thumb (depending on how many people you have working for you and your workload) is to strive to only do the things that only you can do.

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