Lessons from Bill Belichick on Leadership

Bill Belichick is the NFL’s only head coach to win five Super Bowls.  His coaching journey to achieve this level of success was not always easy, and there are lessons to be learned from Belichick’s experience.

Belichick grew up watching his father, who was a fullback for the Detroit Lions and coached at the Naval Academy for 33 years.  That is how Belichick started his football career and education—watching a wide range of great coaches with lots of different styles.  He began his coaching career in 1979 with the New York Giants, first alongside head coach Ray Perkins as defensive assistant and special teams coach, and then with Bill Parcells, where he won two Super Bowls (XXI and XXV).  He landed his first head coach assignment with the Cleveland Browns in 1991, but was fired 1996.  He went on to be the defensive back coach for the Patriots, then defensive coordinator of the NY Jets, and four years later in 2000, after being named head coach of the Jets, he resigned after only one day to become head coach of the New England Patriots.

For his book, “We Got Fired! And it’s the best thing that ever happened to us,” the author Harvey McKay, interviewed Belichick about his firing from the Cleveland Browns.  McKay, the ultimate salesman, asked Belichick to share some advice to coaches and business leaders alike.  Here are Belichick’s points to remember:

On teamwork: “You do what is right for the team.  Doing what is best for the team demands a deep sense of unselfishness.”  It is important that leaders lead with this characteristic before expecting it from others.  Teamwork means putting the team’s goals ahead of individual goals.  Get that formula right and you can overcome any competitor.

On coaching his players: “I try to show my players that I have confidence in them and instruct them on how to deal with performance problems.  Motivational speeches have a place, but the priority is to do the tangible things first to fix the problem.  If you have a self-motivated individual with the proper coaching and guidance, there is a pretty good chance they will rebound and succeed.  It’s my job to provide that direction.”

On being yourself: “I was with five different coaches and five different coaching staffs my first five years.  Because I saw so may successful styles, I became confident that there wasn’t just one style. I didn’t try to be Vince Lombardi or Tom Landry.  I tried to be Bill Belichick.”

Belichick became an NFL legend by watching and learning from other great coaching legends, and then found his own personal leadership style that worked for him.  Sports icons like Belichick can provide business leaders good examples on how to lead and manage organizations successfully.  What is your leadership style and is it proving successful to your organization?