This archived article was written by: David Osborne Jr.
“‘Forward, the light brigade!’ Was there a man dismay’d? Not tho’ the soldier knew someone had blunder’d: Their’s not to make reply, their’s no to reason why, their’s but to do and die: into the valley of death rode six hundred.”
The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson depicts a battle in the Crimean War between the Russians and a brigade of British cavalry regiments. Out of the 600 soldiers of the famed light brigade, less then one third survived and why, because the commander-in-chief was not clear in his orders. This Next on the Tee wants to focus on what makes a leader a great one, not a bad one. We know that bad leaders focus on themselves, are out for the glory, do not care about what is going on in their own “light brigade,” instead the shiny medals and ribbons mean more than the lives they are charged with taking care of. In general it is easier to be a bad leader than a good one because it takes less work. This Next on the Tee has come up with the five things that make a leader a good one.
5-Gives purpose and lives it
“Success with honor,” that is Penn State University’s football motto. Joe Paterno (no matter what has gone on, or is going on) has lived this motto his whole life and has pushed for his players and coaching staff to follow his example. Now things do not always work out the way that they should and people fall short, but that cannot be on Paterno’s shoulders. Coaching staff, players and recruits knew exactly what was expected of them when they stepped foot into the Nittany Lion locker room for the first time, it was to be successful as a football program and as individuals, but be honorable and sportsman like while doing it. Paterno continually said, “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.” If this statement and the Penn State motto does not give a football player a purpose, then Joe-Pa would have failed, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in the last 46 years of Penn State Nittany Lion football.
4- Unleashes talent
“ I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent,” that is what John Wooden reminded his players, fans and the press often. Wooden certainly had a lot of talent and he knew how to use it, his record as a head coach overall speaks for itself at 664-162 (that is a .804 winning percentage.) People in positions of leadership that become good leaders understand that you have to let your players use the talent that they have to their advantage, and then you coach them. Wooden is also famous for saying, “ Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” Talent is the greatest asset that leaders have because it can be used to do anything; good leaders understand that you teach those below you to use their talents, bad leaders stifle talent.
3- Understands leading
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do as a leader is to know when and how to lead. Whether it is as the CEO, a coach, a manager or any other position of leadership it is fundamental to know when to say something and when to just let people be. Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) head coach of Duke University said, “People have to be given the freedom to show the heart they possess. I think it’s a leader’s responsibility to provide that type of freedom. And I believe that it can be done through the relationships and family. Because if a team is a real family, its members want to show you their hearts.” You can never force people to be led by you, you have to let them choose to be led. There are times when you should step up and get in a persons face but there are times when you have to let them go to the end of the bench and think on their own.
2- Inspire trust
“If you trust, you will be disappointed occasionally, but if you mistrust you will be miserable all of the time,” commented Abraham Lincoln. Not only do you have to trust your players or whoever you are in charge of, but the hardest thing to do is get those that you are in charge of getting them to trust you. Jeff Haefner a player development coach in Iowa, came up with ways to gain a player’s trust, “1- Look them in the eye when you speak. 2- Listen to them and be empathetic. 3- Communicate your expectations clearly. 4- Follow-through on your promises. 5- Be honest. 6- Make sure they’re having fun, whether they’re winning or losing. 7- Fulfill your commitment as their head coach and teach them to be better players. 8- Remember that your goal is to make a difference in their lives, not necessarily to win the national championship.” When it comes down to it, leaders need to be able to be trusted.
1- Take responsibility
“Players win the games, coaches lose them,” ever heard that phrase? It may be the truest statement ever in the English language. Players always get the glory for either pulling out a win that shouldn’t have been or for shutting out the other team from the beginning. When the tables have turned though, and teams are losing it is the coach who is in trouble and who may be looking for another job. Knute Rock said, “ A coaches greatest asset is his sense of responsibility – the reliance placed on him by his players.” When in a leadership position, you have to be willing to take that responsibility and admit that the mistakes are yours, even when they are not. This is the single most important attribute a leader must possess.
And so as this version of Next on the Tee winds down, remember the words of Tennyson, “Cannon to right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon behind them volley’d and thunder’d; storm’d at with shot and shell, boldly they rode and well, into the jaws of death, into the mouth of Hell rode the six hundred.” Leaders may not be sending their “light brigade” the face of danger but they are leading them, and good leaders are needed to avoid one of the closing lines in The Charge of the Light Brigade, “Storm’d at with shot and shell, while horse and hero fell.”
This has been leaders on the tee.