Someone once told me, “Brian, when you’re in a room with someone who knows more about a subject matter than you do, just sit there quietly, listen, take copious notes and learn from them.”  This advice has served me well over the years.  I love being in the room with smart leaders.  Smart leaders not only stretch my thinking, they make me see things in a completely new light.

With that said, I want to share with you 21 Often Sobering Lessons 6 Smart Leaders Taught Me This Weekend:

I am currently reading the incredible book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS LEAD And WIN written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.  The following are 5 lessons from the early parts of this book:

  1. The Only Meaningful Measure Of A Leader – “The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails…Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission and win.  Ineffective leaders do not.”
  2. Humility Is Essential To Leadership Success – “For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success.  The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agenda.  They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”
  3. Leadership Is The Single Greatest Reason For Team Success – “Leadership is the most important factor on the battlefield, the single greatest reason behind the success of any team.”
  4. The Buck Stops With The Leader – “Leaders must own everything in their world.  There is no one else to blame.”
  5. Smart Leaders Look In The Mirror First – “As individuals, we often attribute the success of others to luck or circumstances and make excuses for our own failures and the failures of our team.  We blame our own poor performance on bad luck, circumstances beyond our control, or poorly performing subordinates – anyone but ourselves.”
  6. You Can’t Preach Your Church Or Organization Out Of Problems.  You Must Lead Your Church Or Organization Out Of Problems. – “You can’t make people listen to you.  You can’t make them execute…You can’t make people do those things.  You have to lead them.”

The second opportunity to learn from smart leaders was ESPN’s Saturday morning show NFL Matchup with Sal Paolantonio, Louis Riddick, and Greg Cosell.  I consider Riddick and Cosell two of four smartest analysts on television.  Trent Dilfer and Mike Lombardi are the others.  To have them on the same episode was an opportunity I could not miss.  The following are 9 Leadership Lessons I learned from this show designed for football nerds.

  1. The Difference Between Two Evenly Matched Teams Is Leadership – This is a concept taught by John Maxwell in his book The 17 Laws Of Teamwork.  Nowhere does this show up more than in pro football where 57% of all 2016 NFL games were decided by one score or less.
  2. The Hardest Part Of Any Task Is The Last 20 Percent – As a result of point #1, the NFL has become a “Red Zone league”.  For the uninitiated, the Red Zone is the last 20 yards a team must go in an opponent’s territory before scoring a touchdown.  You do a lot of work to get to the Red Zone but there are no points until you move from the Red Zone into the End Zone.  The league’s best team’s are the most effective teams at getting into the End Zone.
  3. Successful Teams Do Three Things Better Than Their Competition – Work Smarter, Execute Faster, And Finish Well. – Riddick pointed out the New York Giants were the best red zone defensive team in 2016 because they were smart, fast as far as executing, and they knew how to finish plays.
  4. Smart Leaders Are Simply Involved In A Higher Level Of Conversations Than Less-Intelligent Leaders – Listen to these words from Cosell, “The (Philadelphia) Eagles in their pass game, they’re not an isolation route team.  They don’t ask their wide receivers very often to win very much on the outside.  It’s more about route concepts and route combinations, particularly at the intermediate and vertical levels.  And that’s what Dagger is. Dagger is a two-man route concept but there’s added elements, particularly if it’s man or zone.”  Should you be raising your level of conversation as a leader?
  5. Smart Leaders Go Through Extraordinary Efforts To Put Their Teams In Positions For Successful – 26 of Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson’s 80 catches last season came detached from the formation.  Running backs traditionally line up in the backfield by the quarterback.  Johnson often lines up off the line in the slot of wide receiver positions.
  6. Complexity Is The Enemy.  Smart Leaders Keep Things Simple Because They Have Learned What They Do Well And Stick With It. – New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas caught 75% of the 122 passes thrown to him last year.  70% of these catches were just three routes – slants, hitches, and back-shoulder fades.
  7. Having Balance Gives Leaders The Best Chance For Success – Riddick said, “When you stay balanced, you give yourself the best chance to win.”
  8. Successful Leaders Limit Mistakes And Solve Problems – Riddick describing Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, “They needed two things out of the quarterback position.  They needed someone who was smart and could protect the football and someone who could bomb it down the field and produce some big plays which they struggled with in 2016.”
  9. Successful Leaders Multiply Themselves – Riddick pointed out, “(Browns head coach) Hue Jackson got what we wanted – an extension of him on the football field.”

As a special bonus, I would also like to provide you 6 leadership quotes and lessons from Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer from Saturday’s ESPN College Gameday.  Even though his team lost to the Oklahoma Sooners, Coach Meyer is one of the most insightful leaders you will ever learn from.  Whenever he speaks, I listen and take notes.  Here are his thoughts:

  1. Great Leaders Have A Great Burden For Others – I was once had a company president tell me, “Brian, when I look at this room of 45 people, I see 45 mortgages.”  This is the burden of leadership.  Meyer acknowledged, “You don’t want to let these people (at Ohio State) down.”
  2. Great Leaders Are Great Fans Of Their Organization – If you were not a pastor, would your church be the one your family would attend?  If you did not work for that car dealership, would that be the car you would drive?  You get the point.  Loyalty matters.  Meyer noted, “I grew up two hours from here.  I know this place inside-out, upside-down.  I’m a historian of Ohio State.  I’m a fan of Ohio State.”
  3. Enduring Organizations Become Great Brands – “Ohio State is a very strong brand right now, academically and obviously football-wise.”
  4. Control Is An Illusion – “Every coach’s nightmare is facing a player (that when) something’s not there, they create it.”
  5. Being A “Winner” Is Determined By Your Performance – Meyer referred to his quarterback J.T. Barrett, “J.T.’s a winner.  His record is phenomenal.”
  6. Leadership Is A Position Of Distorted Reality – “Quarterbacks get far too much credit when it goes well and far too much blame when it doesn’t.”

What is one thing you learned from this list which will make you a better leader?

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