It all happened sometime in 2005. We had moved to Florida and were getting acclimated to the warm winters and watching football in shorts. Our new home team was the Miami Dolphins. While I will always be a Giants fan, I needed a team I could watch and root for on Sundays.
The Dolphins had just hired a new head coach, someone with college football experience, bringing “a new hope" to the franchise. While I won’t go into the whole story, that college coach was Nick Saban. After two short seasons, he snuck out in the dead of night, never to be our head coach again. I was angry. The Savior who was going to lead our Dolphins back to greatness had left.
For that reason, I DETEST Nick Saban!
As we enter football season it dawned on me, football coaches have always been known as great leaders and are always looked upon with awe. As much as I detest Nick Saban, does he have leadership qualities we should all aspire to possess? Unfortunately, yes, he does.
Saban focuses on the process over the outcome.
In this article by Kevin A. Thompson, Kevin highlights Saban's ability to focus on the process versus the outcome. Why? Processes are repeatable actions or plans, while outcomes are a one-time event. When a good process is in place, everything works well, and success becomes the standard.
The example Kevin discusses is your monthly expense line. Do you place more focus on your expenses at the end of the month, or do you focus on creating daily, weekly and monthly budgets and checklists to ensure your costs are in line with your revenues? The process of budgeting and monitoring regularly, versus the outcome of expenses.
Saban surrounds himself with leaders who complement him.
Dave Magee of Newsweek highlights the uncanny ability Saban has of surrounding himself with leaders who complement his style. The article talks about how, when faced with a need, Saban went out and hired an executive who was the opposite of Saban’s management style, because it was what the team needed. Saban understands his shortcomings and does not let his pride interfere with surrounding himself and hiring a diverse leadership team for the good of the organization.
When you are hiring, do you assess your candidates on how they will complement your current team? Do they bring skills your current team does not possess? Should they?
Saban experiences a high level of leadership turnover.
What does Saban do with all of these leaders? He prepares them to go out and lead on their own. Nick Saban has one of the highest turnover rates amongst his leadership staff, in all of college football. According to this article by Bill Murphy Jr., there is not one assistant still on his staff from the 2017 national championship team. And since his first season at Alabama, 38 assistants have moved on from their roles at Alabama.
Saban is relentless in his pursuit of leadership talent and the process of hiring a leader is thorough. He will conduct all the research necessary to understand the leader he is considering. In the article, he states, "I actually look for people who have goals and aspirations, who are hard workers and very committed to what they do." Once they become part of the Saban system, they learn, blossom and can go out on their own.
Prepare your team to leave you
Preparing leaders to leave me was one of the most challenging tasks I had to do as a leader. Spend time developing the team to leave me one day? Are you crazy? This consistent positive turnover is for the best. It promotes innovation and shows emerging leaders that you are concerned about their future, however, it does not make it any easier.
The greatest football coaches in history, have disciples who have also gone on to greatness. Vince Lombardi had Tom Landry on his staff and Bill Parcels had Bill Belichick, to name a few.
There's a saying: Good leaders attract followers; great leaders create more leaders.
What kind of leader are you?