Byron's Babbles

The Bear Facts of Leadership

indexEvery winner has a coach, and every coach has a philosophy. Lets take a deeper look inside the philosophy of one of the best. It is appropriate on this weekend before the National College Football Championship game between Alabama and Clemson to reflect on the leadership of Coach Bear Bryant. He had a keen instinct for what needed to be said and done, and a willingness to confront his present reality in order to make progress as a team. Bryant led his Alabama team to six national championships and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986. While Bryant drove many people away with his authoritarian coaching style, he had many players who stayed to become champions. Even with this authoritarian style, Bryant made it a point to take responsibility for what his team did on the field. Gene Stallings, who coached under Bryant said this of his leadership style: “His philosophy as far as players were concerned is that if the team was successful they did it, and if for some reason we lost, he took the blame for it.” Bear Bryant found that if he took responsibility for his team, they would respond by doing everything they could to make the team successful.

“I’m just a plow hand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm down others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team. There’s just three things I’d ever say: If anything goes bad, – I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.” ~ Bear Bryant

Lesson #25 entitled “Big Bear, Little Ego” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart tells the story of Bear Bryant when he was in the United States Navy and disobeyed an order to abandon ship to save shipmates – teammates. Bryant may have pushed them to extreme limits and beyond what they thought they were capable of, but he got the best out of them. The players understood that. And they knew that Bryant was committed to their success. That’s where the bond came from—they were all in it together. Some leaders claim they don’t care if they’re liked; they just want to be respected. Other leaders are well liked but not really respected. The unusual leader, the really good one, is respected and revered. It takes a unique balance in a person to inspire that kind of loyalty and admiration, but it can be done. Coach Bryant brought his teams together by focusing on a common goal. They worked together, survived together, and ultimately succeeded together. Remember, great leaders do not consider themselves more important than the team, but as a part of the team. Leaders merely have a different set of responsibilities.

“Ready! Down! Break! Hut! Hut! Hut!” Send a spiraling pass to your team!




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