Mike Leach, the head football coach at Washington State University, is a unique person, and that is an understatement. He entered the coaching world the untraditional way, having not played college ball. Leach played wide receiver on his high school team. He spent much of his college days observing the BYU football program during its heyday, then going to Pepperdine Law School to become a lawyer. Being a lawyer was not for him, so he set out to learn how to coach and lead using his unique view of the game to develop his style and philosophy.
Leach's rise in the coaching ranks was a struggle. From one small school to another, he never got deterred or cared about statuses. Mike Leach only cared about developing his mind as well as his intrapersonal skills. When his offense became successful, more significant programs took notice. His first job at a top school landed him at the University of Kentucky. From there, no one cared that he did not play college football, or that he was untraditional. All that mattered was Leach's intellect and that he was divergent in thought. His coaching and leadership put players in a position to excel. The majority of the people we lead want to become better holistically. If your knowledge and expertise can improve their skills, they will listen and follow. What comes out of your mouth as a leader accompanied by consistent action is way more important than your personal history. You create followers with intelligence, not past performance.
After years of success, Mike Leach wrote a book about his beliefs in coaching, titled Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life. The book applies to all leaders and provides a relatable message.
Following are five essential and resonating points from the book:
- Work extra hard to keep your message simple. Don't try to show everyone how smart you are. Simplicity with excellent execution will always work.
- Do the same thing over and over again, but make it look different. This is such a great point! We often think new and innovative is better, when our business is all about execution. As a leader, you must keep it fresh, but keep it the same.
- Don't eliminate surprises. Create situations where the team must react quickly and use their skills to solve problems under pressure. Simulate surprises daily. Train everyone for the unexpected. Don't let the practice be perfect.
- Ask more questions. Put your team in situations to think all the time. Make them understand the mental component. Teach the game and the business, never assuming the generation you are coaching and leading grew up the same way you did.
- Always realize your advantages and work them. Know your strength and weaknesses and make sure you work as hard on your strengths as you do on your weaknesses. Don't assume your strengths will always be strong.
Focus wisely and earnestly on discovering ways to implement these five strategies into your leadership and personal growth toolkit each day. While wholeheartedly understanding if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are an outstanding coach and leader!
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