Post By: CoachNelson57 | Monday, March 30, 2020


As the old saying goes, “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Although highly un-politically correct, this maxim is true and can also be applied to leadership. There are numerous ways to get individuals from point A to point B; however it is important to note that the best leaders are both authentic and purposeful. A business must have a mission statement to define the purpose of the organization, and skilled leaders need a structured system in place to help shape the goals, ethics and culture of those under his/her supervision. As the legendary basketball coach John Wooden put it, “a good banker isn't careless with pennies and a good leader isn't sloppy with details.”

A monumental moment in my coaching/teaching career was the first time I was asked to define my approach to leadership. Even though I had been coaching for several years, I had never really thought about it. I could easily point you to the philosophies of the all-time best coaches (John Wooden, Vince Lombardi, etc.) and of coaches of whom I admired (Jim Tressel, Lou Holtz, Joe Ehrmann, etc.); however I quickly realized that I did not many original thoughts on the manner.

After much research and reflection, I was pleased with the 12-page document I had created, detailing all of my thoughts on leadership. I am forever grateful to a friend and mentor of mine who kindly shared with me that no one was ever going to read the encyclopedia I just put together, let alone remember it or apply it or its principles. He then recommended the book “Win Forever” where Super Bowl winning coach Pete Caroll challenges readers to submit his/her own coaching philosophy in just 25 words or less. Why only 25 words? As best selling Author Jon Gordon writes, “simple is powerful and creates a laser like focus”. Therefore expert leaders must develop his/her own unique leadership philosophy only consisting of just a few specific foundational beliefs.

Fast forward to the day I attended a coaching clinic where my life would change forever. The speaker presented on the topic that his team would be successful if they bought into his idea of PAIN: Persistence, Accountability, Integrity and Never Quit. I was enamored with the coach's use of an acronym, however I felt that PAIN had a negative connotation. I rushed home and examined my original coaching philosophy that consisted of 25 traits and identified the four that were most important to me. The most important quality to me was Love, the basis of all human relationships and what intrinsically motivates people. Then, I thought of Coach Wooden and about how I wanted to teach the players under my supervision about the process and how to focus on what they control (effort and a positive attitude). I knew that fostering these characteristics in others would be quite challenging and that it would require a great deal of discipline in order to do so.

I now had the four words that were most important to me and a light-bulb went off in my head as I recognized the word LEAD! It contained: (a) all of my character words; (b) it was positive; (c) the most important quality of love came first; (d) and finally I believe aligned with my belief that my job as a coach is to not to only win games but more importantly to use sport as a vehicle in which to teach character qualities to young men that they will apply in their personal lives thus changing the world for good.