Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What American Football Can Teach Organizations About Leadership

If you follow American football at all, you can't miss this year's debate over intangible leadership skills and technical position skills.

The spotlight of this debate is a quarterback who has been in the NFL for 2 years.  His critics say he cannot throw the football. Yet his ardent followers say his innate leadership qualities and a will to win  overshadow his technical skill deficiencies.

We agree with Jim Collins, to succeed, "an organization must get the right people on the bus and in the right seats," However, leadership requires certain soft skills that we believe can be taught.

Kouzes and Pozner, in their book, The Leadership Challenge, identify 5 qualities of exemplary leaders.

Lets go back to our young quarterback to see if Kouzes' and Posner's qualities are present in the young athlete.
  • Model the Way- Does giving 110% on every play  meet Kouzes' and Posner's criteria?
  • Inspire A Shared Vision- Does  inspiring his teammates and fans that victory is possible, no matter the circumstances, meet Kouzes' and Posner's criteria?
  • Challenge the Process- Does turning the assumptions that drive the modern game of American football on its head, meet Kouzes' and Posner's criteria?
  • Enable Others to Act- Does the read-option put the power to enable his teammates in the young quarterback's hands? Does this meet  Kouzes' and Posner's criteria?
  • Encourage the Heart- Does the young quarterback's passion for the game, meet  Kouzes' and Posner's criteria?
This is the question when searching for and training leaders:
Must they have all the technical skills that their followers and team possess? Or rather, can they learn a model of leadership that will enable any organization to thrive regardless of the leaders technical know how?

Conversely, does promoting technically great individual contributors or managers to positions of leadership, present great challenges, without proven leadership training?

1 comment:

  1. Leadership traits can be taught, but it's much easier to do that with an individual who has a passion to be a leader and a passion for the game or an industry. I don't think a leader must have all the technical skills, but rather have leadership skills that make others around a leader better. In a football analysis, throwing a football is a core competency, however. Luckily, it can be mastered as well. Our quaterback can throw football, and we see that with every game. What he does even better is that he inspires others, encourages the heart, and challenges the process with his unorthodox running skills better than many other quaterbacks in the league.