What Coach Taught Me About Leadership
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader"
- John Quincy Adams
I have identified four characteristics of the world's most authentic and effective leaders:
They truly care about their followers.
They have an unconditional belief in those they lead.
They are fair. They have the same standards for all.
They expect excellence - in all thoughts, words, and actions - from each team member.
Great leaders like Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys), Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics), Mother Teresa, Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), and Cleburne Price genuinely care about their followers. With the exception of Cleburne Price, the previously mentioned individuals are universally recognized as great leaders.
Cleburne Price, Jr. was one of the most influential people in my life. His guidance helped me achieve both athletic and academic excellence at the University of Texas. Most importantly, the lessons that he taught me from 1968 through 1972 have helped me become a better man, both personally and professionally. The "how" can best be illustrated by sharing two conversations that I had with Coach, one during my freshman year and the other during my senior year.
The year was 1968. The place was the University of Texas. It was my freshman year at the university that I had always dreamed of attending. I had achieved a goal of a full athletic scholarship at the flagship university in the state of Texas. I was a small town boy, a celebrated high school student athlete who was totally lost on the huge campus in Austin, Texas. My vision of being a contributor on the Texas Track Team looked bleak, as there were many Sprinters and quarter-milers that had run times much faster than my high school bests. I cried myself to sleep the first several months and truly wanted to return to the comforts of home. Here's where the first conversation with Coach Price occurred. He asked to see me, an unproven freshman, in his office one day after practice. I was puzzled, as I was new and didn't know why Coach wanted to meet with me.
Here's the essence of the first conversation - I arrived at Coach's office and he asked me to sit down. I was a little intimidated, being a freshman and worried that something must be wrong for Coach to want to personally visit with me. He said, "Byrd, I am very proud to have you on our team." I'm thinking, "He really cares about me." He went on to say, "Byrd, I have several goals for you. Number one is that you are going to be a four-year letterman." My thoughts, "He really believes in me!" He continued by saying, "We are going to win at least one Southwest Conference Championship and I am counting on you to help make this happen." My thoughts, "How can I let this man down, as he truly cares and believes in me?" Next, he said, "I truly believe that you have the talents to become an All American." My thoughts, "I am an unproven freshman and he believes that I will become one of the best runners in the country." Finally, he concluded our meeting stating, "Byrd, my final expectation is that you will be elected captain by your teammates." I don't think I need to tell you what I was thinking. My thoughts of quitting the team had vanished because of one conversation with this man. I couldn't wait for the next day's practice!
Coach's words proved prophetic, as we more than achieved his predictions. I lettered four years, was on two Southwest Conference Championship teams, was elected captain of the team for two years, and earned All American honors by being a member of the world's fastest sprint medley team in 1971.
Following is the second conversation that was held in Coach Price's office after my senior year of 1972 –
As with the first conversation, Coach had asked to visit with me in his office. I had graduated and my thoughts were focused on making it in the business world. Like my freshman year, I was a little intimidated and worried about my future. I sat in the same chair and looked across at Coach Price. I will never forget the pride and compassion in his eyes, as he said, "Byrd, we did it." He recounted the two conference championships, my earning four varsity letters, the world-class relay race in which I became an All American, and the distinction of being elected captain during my junior and senior years.
He continued with words that will forever be in my heart. "Byrd, I have never coached an athlete that hated to lose more than you. You worked harder than any athlete that I have had the privilege to coach." He got up and moved around the corner of his desk and asked me to stand up. He hugged me and, with a tear flowing down his cheek, said, "You know how I feel."
I am blessed to have many great leaders who have influenced my life. Thanks to all for caring and believing in me.
How about reaching out to that one person who has made a positive difference in your life? That call might just make their day.
And Coach, "You know how I feel."
True Growth Takeaway:
Belief in self is critical for one to achieve their full potential.
True Growth Journaling Questions:
What three people have had the most positive influence on your life? Call or visit them and let them know how you feel; don't assume they know.
What individual do you know who needs someone to believe in them? What about reaching out and being that person?
About the author:
Byrd Baggett is a best-selling author and popular motivational speaker. He has been helping organizations develop authentic leaders and passionately engaged teams since 1990. His corporate experience includes sales and management careers with two Fortune 500 companies. He is a Member of LWM III Consulting LLC and the creator of the True Growth brand. Byrd is the author of 15 best-selling books on the topics of sales, customer service, leadership and motivation. A former All American sprinter at the University of Texas at Austin, Byrd is also a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), the highest earned designation presented by the National Speakers Association.