Monday, February 7, 2011

Lessons in Losing

Dave Martin / AP
There's a lot of celebrating fans in Green Bay today. The other side, Pittsburgh, not so much. It's tauted as the, "World championship" What can we learn from the losing team of Super Bowl XLV about leadership? Yes, I said, the losing team.

First things first, I'm not a big NFL fan. I watch it from time to time, but I'm not a die hard fan. I watched the Super bowl, because it's the last NFL game of the year and appeared it would be a good game, which it did not disappoint.

As the final ticks of the clock evaporated from the play clock there was elation on the Green Bay Packers sideline, while there was disappointment and defeat on Pittsburgh Steelers side.

As the two teams went in different emotional directions the first thing I noticed after Pittsburgh's coach, Mike Tomlin had shook hands with the Green Bay coaches was that while he was leaving the field, he had his arm around one of his players and was talking to him. Now, I've seen a lot of coaches in this situation just alienate themselves from their players and walk off the field alone. Much different then when they win, hugging, jumping into others arms, cheering one another. Coach Tomlin showed me a lot about his character and his leadership in this moment. He did what good leaders do in defeat, he immediately started to lift up his people.

Flash forward to the press conference. On one side you have Green Bay answering all the easy questions about victory, on the other, the Pittsburgh players and coaches answering all of the, "What if?" questions. Again, Coach Tomlin impressed me when he stated, " You may make excuses, not me, I will not make excuses, Green Bay played a heck of a game and made the plays they needed to win the championship"

Our human nature is to look to anything that we can credit with our demise in a losing situation, it had to be because _____ ( enter excuse) Coach Tomlin didn't do that, he did what good leadership does, he accepted his loss. He didn't deflect it to the QB Ben Roethlisberger two interceptions or to injuries to 3 starters. He took responsibility for the loss and then gave credit where credit was due.

I found an interesting quote by Coach Tomlin, when asked about the importance of winning the super bowl, "It's down the list, to be quite honest with you," Tomlin told Baptist Press. "I'm a husband. I'm a father of three. I'm blessed enough to be the head coach of this group of men, countless other things. I'm a brother. I'm a son. It's down the list."

Wow, a head coach in the NFL saying that winning the Super Bowl is down on the list of priorities? Maybe that's why he is the youngest head coach to ever win a Super Bowl? He understands priorities.

Coach Tomlin later then stated,  "Football is what we do; it's not who we are. It is our job, it is our business. We all are very passionate about it, we all want to do very well at it, but [faith] keeps it in perspective."

This begs the question, Leaders, what are your priorities? Does your job or position define who you are? 

What did we learn from losing?
  • Accept Responsibility
  • Don't make excuses
  • Immediately start to lift your people up
  • Importance of understanding priorities
  • Understand your job is what you do, it doesn't define you
You have any thoughts on losing or this article? I'm interested and listening, please share.


Leadership Freak said...

Thanks for your post Greg.

It's an encouragement to read of leaders that live by values and priorities.



Voices of Leadership said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I'm honored. I'm glad that you found encouragement from the story. Thanks for joining the conversation.


Dan H said...

Interesting article. As the game ended, my thoughts were of Mike Tomlin and how he would react/respond/act on perhaps the world's biggest stage.

Flashback to Superbowl 42. The Giants just ruined the Patriots chance aat perfection. What to Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck do? Run off the field without acknowledging the victors - classless from those 2individuals. Coach Tomlin was very gracious in defeat. NFL players and coaches, and people in general could learn a lot from that simple gesture of how he handled himself.

First Class Coach Tomlin, first class. A true leader of character.

Voices of Leadership said...


Thanks for commenting and the time to make it. I had forgotten about Belicheck and Brady's poor sportsmanship. Thanks for pointing out that excellent example of how not to deal with defeat.


Locked Professional said...

I love this article. There are so many reasons this was important and necessary for me to read.

I am learning to embrace this philosophy and it is quite the process to learn but once I am successful I took want to implement his great attitude.

I watched the game and he and his team were very gracious but of course they get that from their coach and it was wonderful to see.

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