Lou Holtz was one of the most successful college football coaches in history. A few years ago, he spoke on leadership at the CEO Council conference about success, failure and leadership and provided some interesting insights, which I’d like to share.
The most important responsibility of a CEO relates to vision:
- You must have a vision of where the company is going
- You need to communicate it constantly to relevant stakeholders
- You need to articulate the strategy of how you’re getting there
A second issue is to serve as a role model. You need to demonstrate your commitment to execution in every action, including forging a culture that’s committed to the values that underlie the strategy. The core values, for a family, company and country are not to be comprised.
Holtz had three core values and three rules:
- Do the right thing, because if you do, you generate trust among the team
- Do everything to the very best of your ability within the allotted time – not because people are looking but because everything, even the small things, make a difference
- Care about one another.
The biggest CEO mistake he’s observed is the fear of risking success. When you have so much success, the expectations get so great that winning is a relief. Fear of losing leads to a failure to raise the standards. After nine straight years of success, you’re on top and say “This is pretty good. Let’s not risk it. Let’s not jeopardize it, let’s not change anything. Let’s maintain.” And the result is that the team finished second. “You’re either growing or you’re dying.”
To keep growing, you need to have dreams and set goals, and answer some tough questions:
- What sacrifices am I willing to make to achieve the goals?
- What skills and talents do I have to acquire in order to do that?
- Who do I have to work with to get things done?
- How are they going to benefit when you reach the goal?
- What problems will you have to overcome to meet the goal?
Lou’s view is that leadership is more than just solving problems – its anticipating them and eliminating mistakes before they happen. As the leader this is done personally and by making your people the best they can be – often by taking them outside of their comfort zone because “most people don’t know how good they can be.” Sage advice.
What do you think? What are your core leadership issues? Share with us.