Failure is something all leaders must deal with.  It is a non-negotiable, often unwelcome companion on your journey.  Smart leaders know the question is not whether or not you will fail.  You will.  The question is will you learn and grow from failure in a way that allows you to improve, get better, and reach your full potential?

This past Wednesday, legendary Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban made a series of media rounds on ESPN.  Much of the conversation centered on the team’s 35-31 loss to Clemson in January’s national championship game.

Coach Saban’s comments were insightful as always.  The following are “Let’s Don’t Waste The Failure” And 29 More Leadership Lessons From Nick Saban:

First Take

  1. “We didn’t have the ownership and accountability last year down the stretch in the play-offs we needed to have playing the quality of teams we were playing.”
  2. “Let’s don’t waste the failure.”
  3. “You find out exactly where you are as a team.” – on playing Florida State the first game of the year.
  4. “The biggest thing that turned the program around is after our first year we played Clemson  in the second year.  They were 9th in the country.  We weren’t even rated and we beat ’em in one of these preseason games and that’s what ignited our program.”
  5. “I don’t look at every team.  I look at the teams we play.”
  6. “My biggest concern is can we make our team one of the best teams in the country and what we have to do to do that.”
  7. “I read a lot of coaching books…We’re constantly visiting with a lot of people…There’s a lot of psychology in how do you get people to execute and compete on a high level on a consistent basis?  That is the goal in all sports.”
  8. “Philosophically we will always do what I think is best.”
  9. “We’re (Bill Belichick and I) constantly asking each other how can we improve?  What can we do?  What did you learn?  Is there something that you did?”


  1. “One game doesn’t define you.  One game doesn’t define a career.” – in the locker room after losing to Clemson
  2. “Don’t let this be a lost opportunity to learn.”
  3. “That’s the hard thing is – the feeling you seen them all have, the hurt that they have.  That’s what really is tough.”
  4. “You never want to waste an opportunity for anything – not a practice, not a play.”
  5. “You don’t want it to be a negative.  You want it to be a positive.  Not something that frustrates but something that challenges you to try improve.”
  6. “Everybody’s got to have a little self-criticism to be able to improve and everybody’s got to take criticism to be able to improve.”
  7. “You’re always to looking for systematically, personnel wise, people in the organization, how can you improve it?”
  8. “85% of people who open restaurants fail.  95% of the people that get a McDonald’s succeed.  So there’s something about the system that must mean something.  I think our system is something we’re always trying to improve.”
  9. “Dogs don’t hunt unless they’re hungry.” – Lee Trevino
  10. “We’ve always tried to focus on the things that are most important to being successful.  A lot of people get caught up on external factors and things that don’t affect winning and losing.”
  11. “The two most important things that affect winning and losing are – A. Getting good talent.  How do you bring talent to your team?  And in our case, that’s recruiting.  Secondly, how do you develop those players so that they can be the best players they can be?  That’s what we always try to focus on.  That’s what I enjoy the most.”

College Football Live

  1. “We’re trying to get this group to focus on all the things they need to do to improve.”
  2. “When you have young players you’re always looking for maturity.”
  3. “I’m looking for some leadership on this team, some alpha-dog personalities who are going to take it over.”
  4. “That’s what leadership is all about – caring enough to teach somebody to do something better for their benefit.”
  5. “What I want to do is what the players can do.  We’ve changed our offense significantly over the last three years based upon what the quarterback can do.”
  6. “We’ve never been able to win when we can’t make big plays in the passing game.”
  7. “This day and age you have to make it about the player.  I want to invest in you not so much about the team…We want you to be the best version of you…That’s what will help the team.”
  8. “I can be stern if I need to be.”
  9. “The biggest thing we try to do in recruiting is create value for the players – personal development, make sure they graduate and develop a career off the field, help them use the resources the institution has so they can get the opportunities from Alabama folks out there and help them all over the United States, and help them develop a career as a football player, which means have success at Alabama, win a national championship, and have success at the next level.”
  10. “Football is a developmental game.”

What is one lesson from Coach Saban you can use to make you a better leader?

To receive more leadership insights from Coach Saban, click HERE or on the image to the left for my new ebook The Leadership Of Nick Saban: Timeless Truths From The Incomparable Head Coach Of The Alabama Crimson Tide.  Enjoy!



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