What Leaders Can Learn From Bill Belichick



Coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick just won his fifth Super Bowl, tying Vince Lombardi for the number of NFL championships (Lombardi won 3 championships before the creation of the Super Bowl).  Yes, he has flaws.  Spygate and Deflategate suggest a “win at all costs” mentality.  But Belichick has mastered one skill that every leader needs: It’s all about the who.

Most NFL teams have a general manager who typically chooses the team’s personnel.  The coach is expected to take the talent he is given and coach them to win.  In church world, this is the equivalent of having a committee hire a staff member and telling the pastor to supervise them.  In business world, the equivalent is having HR hire someone and telling you to make them fit on the team.  No wonder so many organizations flounder.

Jim Collins in Good to Great taught us it’s the who before the what.  In the NFL Belichick is the only head coach who has control of personnel decisions and has made it work.  Other coaches (Chip Kelly of the Eagles, for example) think if they get that control, they’ll be successful too.  It seldom works out.  Why?

Because Personnel decisions are hard.  You can’t just look at talent; you have to know how you want to achieve success.  Belichick criteria for personnel decisions is not how tall they are or how much they can bench press.  He wants to know if they can tackle, catch, run, block, or throw.  He has a clear picture of a win.

Belichick puts the interest of the team first.  If that means cutting a popular player, he does it and takes the heat.  When guys are done, he makes the gut wrenching decision to cut them from team.

I’m not suggesting you apply Belichick’s football standards to your organization; I am telling you (and me) that if you lead an organization, it’s all about the who.

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