“Don’t call me coach – right now I couldn’t coach lions to eat red meat” – Bill Parcells, Coach, Dallas Cowboys
I’ve often considered NFL coaches to be first and foremost Leaders – people that are unusually good at inspiring others. Often leadership is about example – and sometimes it is about motivation.
Occasionally it is about humiliation, and that’s what I think Parcells’ meant by that statement last night – he wanted his players to know that they were humiliating him through their poor performance (not lack of effort, but lack of attention to detail). The Cowboy’s simply play sloppy – too many mistakes, to many penalties.
Good leaders find ways to motivate people, and they consistently change their methods. Person by person, day by day, the requirements vary – good leaders know this even if they don’t know they know this. You cannot steadily motivate people by using the same mechanisms over and over (be that praise, salary, bonuses or perks).
Leadership is partially the ability to recognize when one needs to change direction, or motivation. It’s about never believing you know all the answers – because if you believe that you will never be able to change rapidly enough to stay effective.
The ability to quickly abandon preconceptions, change direction completely and embrace what is considered “unthinkable” are all traits of Leaders. Leaders change not with the time – but in anticipation of the times. They are, above all else, flexible.