There is no doubting that Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is a natural-born leader. In 20 years of coaching college football, Saban has put together a 196-60-1 record, appeared in 16 bowl games and most recently led Alabama to a College Football Playoff Championship game win over Clemson.
The everyday entrepreneur can learn a lot from Saban's success, including his drive for being the best, his substitution of stubbornness for a proclivity to make modifications, and being unafraid of taking risks.
1. He Sees No Option Other Than Being the Best
Miami Dolphins fans still despise Saban for ditching the team after promising that he would remain as the NFL franchise's head coach. Years later, it was revealed that there was a real possibility of him sticking with the organization if he would have been permitted to sign the quarterback he wanted -- Drew Brees, now of the New Orleans Saints.
Saban could not bear mediocrity, even if it was in the professional ranks as opposed to coaching a college team (coaching in the professional ranks is oft looked upon as being more prestigious than at an NCAA institution). If he did not have the tools required to be the best, then he was going to search elsewhere.
Off the field, Saban cemented his status as the best coach in college football. He earns a massive $6.9 million per year (prior to performance bonuses) and has a clause in his contract that boosts his salary even higher should it fall below the average of the three highest-paid college football coaches in the U.S.
If you're going to be the best, you should be paid accordingly.
2. He Shows a Will to Take on the Toughest Challenges
Saban is now a whopping 5-0 in national title games in his 20 years as head coach. He has also amassed six Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship titles, only losing one conference championship game. Many deem the SEC to be the toughest conference in college football.
He knows that his record may piss off the competition, but it does not seem to affect his emotions.
"You know, mediocre people don't like high achievers and high achievers don't like mediocre people," said Saban in a November 2013 interview on 60 Minutes.
3. He Knows the Importance of Being Amenable to Change
It would make sense for Saban to be stubborn. He has achieved a level of success that is increasingly hard to duplicate with each additional win he garners.
Yet instead of resting on his laurels and staying true to a game plan that worked in the past, Saban is always making changes to stay ahead of his competition for the future. Entrepreneurs in any line of business should follow Saban's lead.
"He's telling me to go to TCU in the offseason, he's telling me to go see Tom Herman," said Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. "It's a credit to him not being stubborn, saying, 'I'm going to win the old-school way and show everybody I can be in the I formation and play slow.' Instead of being stubborn, you see him changing, evolving."
4. He's Not Afraid to Take Some Risk
In the biggest game of the season, when all of the work and preparation was supposed to pay off, Saban instructed his team to gamble on executing an onside kick, with the odds against success. Accomplishing that task would potentially be a game changer (and it was), helping Alabama distance itself from Clemson in the College Football Playoff Championship game.
"We weren't playing very well on defense," said Saban. "It was a tie game. I thought we needed to do something that was going to change the momentum of the game. That certainly did."
Again, this shows Saban's lack of stubbornness, but more importantly for the entrepreneur, it underscores the necessity to pivot when the original plan is not working as predicted. Saban did not have to rewrite the rules, but he did execute a particular play that changed the course, which helped lead to a favorable outcome.