Leadership Starts at the Beginning

There really aren't many things that separate great organizations or great teams from good ones.  Most companies create viable organizations, re-organize when needed, plan, execute and repeat as necessary. If one looks hard enough it's easy to recognize similar products in different packages.  So what is it that separates the great organizations from the good ones?

A Lesson from the NFL

Throughout its history, the NFL has been saturated with wonderful talent. They represent the best of the best. So, what is it that allows certain teams to create a dynasty? Did teams like the Packers, Cowboys, and 49'ers have special talent available only to them? What was so special that often over several seasons allowed them to be the champion among champions?

Perhaps the answer lies in the beginning and doing first things first.

The great coach Vince Lombardi took over a downtrodden Green Bay Packers team in 1959 and turned it into professional football's most dominant team of the 1960's, leading them to five championships in nine seasons. They won the first two Super Bowls. Even now, the NFL championship trophy bears his name. In all, during 15 years, Lombardi never had a losing season.

While there may be many reasons for his success he always started each spring training season with one statement. And, it just may be that there is a "learning" here for modern organizations.

"Gentlemen, this is a football."

He always started at the beginning. Was it that the greatest players in the world forgot what a football was after playing with it for most of their lives? I think not. The real lesson was to go back to the beginning. Do first things first. First, know what you are about. And, until you get this first thing right we don't go on.

Organizations today exist in a fast-paced, ever-changing world and to be successful they must keep up. Many search for the newest "thing" that will give them the edge over the competition. We continually strive for that one "something" that we can purchase to make us better. But, Coach Lombardi didn't look outside for the key to success. He looked inward. "What are we about?" He always started there.

Where does the beginning really start? Successful people and organizations know that before anything there is purpose. Why do we do what we do? Not, what are we selling, but why are we selling it. People rarely buy what you are selling, they buy the why. And, that is as true internally as it is externally. Why are we in business?

If we are honest, can we answer the why? If we can, does everyone in the organization have the same answer? Does the person who sorts the mail or the person who oversees IT know? Do our clients or customers know? Should they? What real difference would it make?

Great leaders are able to harness the power of why first and they have the unique ability to create a sense of inclusion at all levels of the organization (usually through their actions, not delegated ones) and create a truly collective mindset. And, it all begins with the leader asking why.

Why? Why am I doing this? What is the higher purpose?

Great organizations have employees that are willing to go above and beyond often at great personal sacrifice. But, true sacrifice is only achievable when there is a very good reason to do so, and the reason to do so is a higher purpose. The ability to understand and to instill in others the "why" gives leaders the ability to transform the fortunes of groups, corporations, and individuals. They inspire and provide a "cultural glue" that guides behaviors and creates an overall sense of connection.

This is the beginning of the team. One always should start with first things first.

 "Gentlemen, this is a football."

Don Hutson
(281) 732-4963
Author: Don Hutson
Phone: (281) 732-4963
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