Byron's Babbles

Dallas Cowboys Leadership Lessons

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 30, 2013
Purdue Boilermaker Kyle Orton

Purdue Boilermaker Kyle Orton

The first thing I want to establish up front is that this post has nothing to do with being for or against the Dallas Cowboys. There will also be no analysis of last night’s game between the Cowboys and Eagles. Now, I must admit, however, that I was watching the game with much anticipation of how Purdue Boilermaker Kyle Orton would do stepping up as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. I believe Orton did a great job of stepping up and leading under the circumstances and I’ll leave it at that for you to agree or disagree.

This post has more to do with what I thought were some very astute comments by Trent Dilfer, ESPN Analyst and Super Bowl Champion, after the game. When asked about the future of the Dallas Cowboys, Dilfer discussed some of his own opinions about organizational leadership that I believe warrant some reflection and thought.

Dilfer talked about how sometimes the talent is overrated on the Cowboys. He said that for some reason there is a myth that when a new player puts on the “Star” of the Dallas Cowboys the “so called” abilities of that individual increase exponentially. This is important to consider in our own organizations. Do we think of ourselves or our team members as being much better than they are? It is obvious the detriments this mindset can bring to an organization. Many times an overconfidence in ability, or in a name, can bring about a miscalibration of areas for coaching and professional growth.

The next point Dilfer made was that the Cowboys are known for going after the marquee players without a real plan as to how they fit in the organization. Jerry Jones tends to go after players and personnel that are at the top of their class or are friends, but sometimes they don’t exactly fit into the big picture of the team. Dilfer called this the need for taking a 30,000 foot view of where everyone fits in the organization. Again, I want to point out that Dilfer was not being disrespectful of Jerry Jones, a very successful and great leader. Dilfer did point out an important point that, we as leaders, need to consider: Making sure we step back and look at who our team members are, their skills and skill level, and how/whether they fit the overall vision of the team.

In Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap… and Others Don’t (2001) Jim Collins discusses having the right people on the bus. It really goes beyond that to not only having the right people on the bus, but having the right people on the bus and in the right seats. I know I have made mistakes in my own role as principal in hiring that marquee teacher, that other schools are trying to recruit too, only to find he did not fit the overall culture and vision of the team.  We can point to example after example where this has happened in pro sports with both players and coaches.

I appreciated Trent Dilfer’s comments after the game, done in a very respectful manner, and the reflection these comments caused me to do. I for one, and I hope you will too, am going to step back as I continue to build our team and take a 30,000 foot view of where everyone fits on the team. In other words; should they be on the bus? And, if so, what seat should they be sitting in?

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