I'm writing this article exhausted and sore because two days ago I started researching for this article. Having hurt my leg running, I decided to skip a workout to recover.

Then I read Vince Lombardi. His birthday is tomorrow.

Most people think of him as a hard-core tough guy. He was. He yelled at his team. He won in a time when not everyone got a medal for participating.

The integrity he exuded and got from his teams resonates in every quote and anecdote about him so much that you can't ignore it.

And I realized that I hadn't tested if the injury would be a problem. The rowing machine I planned to use might use different muscles. Was I honest with myself?

I got on the machine, started rowing, realized the injury didn't affect rowing, and did my full workout.

I was using the injury as an excuse. Lombardi motivated me.

How do we become leaders who lead people even generations later?

(It didn't hurt to learn that at 45, he was younger when he began his legendary career at Green Bay than I am now.)

While I didn't win a Superbowl, I felt a bit of his great quote:

I firmly believe that any man's finest hour--his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear--is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle--victorious.

I love that  exhaustion.

Without integrity yourself, you won't get it from others. Just because you have it doesn't mean you'll get it from others. Yelling won't get it, either.

Why These Two Lombardi Quotes?

Most Lombard quotes describe his reflections after he got his results. As leaders, we can use them as useful milestones as we succeed like him.

How do we get those results in the first place? He was as human as you, meaning you can do what he did, if you know how.

Many coaches share his style without his results. I looked for quotes that revealed what made the style work.

Vince yelled, but he didn't only yell. Before the Packers, he was Offensive Coordinator for the Giants. Harland Svare, later NFL Head Coach who played under him, described him:

The only one I ever saw that was tuned in that good was Vince. Some games, he would scream at the players for an hour. Other times it was just a kind of lecture. I could never tell why he did one or the other. I looked for some sign of how he knew. Finally, I asked him one day, and he looked at me as though he was surprised by my question. He said that he just felt like the football team was feeling. Every moment. He would just look at himself and know what he had to do.

Quote #1: Lombardi's Empathy and Compassion

The part I italicized doesn't sound like the Lombardi most people know. It sounds like empathy and compassion. How he chose to express himself revealed his caring and sensitivity he had for his players.

In his words:

I believe everybody wants discipline, especially young people. But one has to be careful of the spirit in which it's given. They'll take it if it's done in the spirit of teaching ... even of love, like the discipline one gets from a mother and father.

Any leader can yell. How many teach and love? Lombardi put everything he had into his coaching, including teaching and love. That's the meaning underneath the style.

In Lombardi's words:

Win your players' hearts and they will follow you anywhere.

Quote #2: Start With The Basics

Where do you start building a team? Lombardi began at the very beginning:

Gentlemen, this is a football.

The more you take for granted, the more you risk competing beliefs, assumptions, mental models, and other sources of friction. You don't need everyone to agree with you, but you the more everyone understands each other, the more your team can have teamwork.

The great coach John Wooden began similarly. He began his seasons with how to put on socks.

Couldn't they assume their players knew what a football was and how to put on socks? Maybe, but why, when a few moments to create understanding means they didn't have to?

What are you assuming with your teams? How can you replace the assumptions with understanding? What will the confidence of that understanding enable for your team?

Published on: Jun 10, 2016