Several of my past bosses (my wife exempted) have been difficult taskmasters.
They got results but, maybe like you, I found they weren’t a lot of fun to work with. I’m glad the experience is behind me – but it taught me two important lessons.
1. Managing by fear and intimidation works for some but stifles subordinate creativity and problem solving.
2. Collegial leadership initially takes longer but you gain better solutions and commitment to the mission.
That came back to me in watching the national college title rematch between Alabama and Clemson. Being a South Carolinian, my heart was with Clemson, especially after they narrowly lost last year’s title game. But my interest was equally focused on whose coaching style would be the most effective. If you look at hard-nosed Alabama coach Nick Saban’s record, it would be easy to pick his exacting style. If you look at what Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has been able to do, you might rethink that assumption. The two coaches have much in common. One played at Alabama, the other coaches there now. Both are detail-oriented hard workers, great coach and player recruiters, self-aware and successful CEOs.
Nick Saban’s traits
Leadership expert Brian Dodd identified 12 leadership traits of Alabama’s Nick Saban.
1. Expect to succeed.
Saban says, “We’re expected to win the game. It’s misery if you don’t.”
2. Look ahead.
Winning is 30 minutes of happiness, he says. But what about next week? We have to win next week, too.
3. Insist on perfect performance.
Saban’s relentless drive for perfection is unmatched in college football coaching. Winning is his only option.
4. Recruit and develop great people.
Former assistants include Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher.
Also South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, Florida’s Jim McElwain and Georgia’s Kirby Smart.
5. Make others successful.
Working for Saban is a great career move. His assistants take head coaching jobs at other universities.
6. Be accessible to other leaders.
“He’s been tremendous in my career,” Muschamp said. “I can still call and ask him what he thinks.”
7. Be candid and forthright.
“You may not like the answer,” Muschamp says, “but I appreciate the honesty and guidance he’s given me.”
8. Create a culture of excellence.
LSU coach Kirk Doll said, “He coaches at high school camps as hard as he coaches college players.”
9. Demand commitment.
Every level of his program must share the same intentions, work ethic and commitment to excellence.
10. Empower others.
Coach Jim McElwain said. “He hires great people and lets them do their jobs.”
11. Have detailed plans.
He has a plan for everything from recruiting, academics, the in-season and offseason.
12. Be prepared.
Winning games results from doing everything well. This is his legendary “process.” It begins in the weight room, off-season conditioning and summer practice. Assistant coach Sal Sunseri says, “It’s the total preparation, the mindset going into the game.”
Dabo Swinney’s traits
Brian Dodd identified 12 leadership traits of Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
1. Overcome challenges.
Challenges are necessary. They teach us to succeed. Swinney started at Alabama with no scholarship.
He lettered three times under Alabama coach Gene Stallings after walking on as a 19-year-old wide receiver.
2. Keep our eyes on the details.
Swinney makes detailed plans and tracks the Tigers’ routines as far ahead as a year in advance.
3, Hard work.
Playing for Tommy Bowden at Alabama, he learned walk-on players must outwork scholarship players.
4, Lifetime learner.
Bowden’s father, legendary coach Bobby Bowden, collected quotes and insights from his own reading. This is a practice he passed on to his sons Tommy and Terry. Now Swinney does it, too.
5. Appreciate exposure and experience.
Many young leaders confuse exposure with experience. You actually need both. Swinney has been been at only two schools, Alabama and Clemson, but learned a lot at both. “I’ve been there a long time and exposed to a lot of things,” he said.
6. Build long-lasting relationships.
Good leaders cross racial, socio-economic, geographic and religious lines to build mutually-beneficial relations. Even as an assistant coach, Swinney’s office was always filled with players, not just wide receivers.
7. Care about others.
He was known for the way he treated everybody, how he coached and the relationships he created.
8. Be authentic and true to himself.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables says, “There’s not an ounce of phoniness in him.”
9. Recruit great talent.
Clemson consistently has Top 20 recruiting classes. Venables is one of football’s top defensive coordinators. Offensive coordinators Tony Elliott’s and Jeff Scott’s teams scored over 500 points, 25% more than in 2015. If you are going to sustain a winning operation, you must infuse your team with top talent.
10. Think long-term as well as today.
Swinney is big-picture guy with a long-term vision for the Clemson’s program. Yet he sees the minutest details of day-to-day practices and habits.
11. Gain buy-in from everyone.
“We’ve got a good plan,” he says, “but most importantly our players believe in it.”
12. Seek constant improvement.
His 2011 team won the ACC championship. The 2012 team won its bowl game against LSU. The 2013 team beat Ohio State in a bowl and in 2014 ended South Carolina’s five-year winning streak. In 2016 they narrowly lost the national title to Alabama and this year beat Alabama for the title. “I just work hard. I’m not afraid to fail,” Swinney says. These top 12 traits of both leaders are only part of Bran Dodd’s list.
For the entire list and what you can learn from it, see http://briandoddonleadership.com/2016/01/09/comparing-and-contrasting-nick-saban-and-dabo-swinneys-leadership-styles/
Your Leadership Challenge
1. How can you improve the example that you set and the leadership lessons you teach your team?
2. How can you recruit, hire and develop top talent and leaders to keep your organization sustainable?
3. What must you work on today as wells as your vision for the year?
February Takeaway Thought. To develop your leadership team, take advantage of a complimentary three weeks of my affordable 18-week “Advanced Leadership & Management” eCourse. You can use it each week as a discussion guide with your leadership team. Offer good for 30 days. Email me at JerryBellune@yahoo.com
Copyright 2016 The Bellune Company Inc.
Jerry Bellune and his family own and operate online and print book, magazine, newspaper and newsletter publishing companies in South Carolina, including Lexington Chronicle. Write him at JerryBellune@yahoo.com for details on his leadership coaching program.
Feature photo care of Tigernet.com