People Power - March 2012
By Scott Humphrey
If you have ever had the opportunity to sit with a college or professional athlete and watch their sport, you were probably as surprised as I was to realize that though you are watching the same game, you are watching it differently. They often see what we don’t. They see what seems to be invisible to the average sports enthusiast. This is primarily because of their depth of knowledge brought about through experience.
Through the years and because of my fascination—some would say obsession—with leadership, I have come to realize that, like an athlete watching their sport, I am constantly evaluating leaders and their skill sets. Put simply, I don’t see leadership on the surface, but at a depth that determines the impact a leader does have or can have on those he leads. At times this is fascinating, and at others quite frustrating. Recently, I have been spending a great deal of time evaluating the difference between coaches and leaders. Though many see these as different names for the same attribute, in this article I would like to invite you to sit next to me as we look a little deeper.
The confusion is justified. In fact, many leadership publications and leadership gurus treat the titles interchangeably. Part of the confusion is that in today’s world, the term leader has become a synonym for anyone in a position of authority. Certainly, a coach would fit into that realm. But one thing that has become very apparent is that a coach can be a leader and a leader can be a coach, but the combination of the two, the leader/coach, is a rare but wonderful find. Here are a few basic differences between a coach and a leader:
A coach sees what people are. A leader sees what they will become. It is said that some walk into the forest and see the trees. An artisan walks into the same forest and sees what those trees can become: furniture and houses. Now carry that same premise to the workplace or the home. If you treat people based on their potential versus their current state, it changes everything. It changes your attitude toward them. It changes you acceptance of temporary setbacks and failures. It changes the way you discipline. On the other hand, it keeps you from allowing those same people to settle. Why be satisfied with what someone is when you are fully focused on what they can and will become? Great leaders hold people to high standards.
A coach is focused on winning. A leader is focused on developing winners. It comes as no surprise that a coach is measured based on the success of their team. This unfortunately puts a lot of pressure on coaches to be more focused on immediate results. This is the what have you done for me lately? mentality that forces many coaches to move key players and even cut some from the team because of temporary setbacks in their performance. A leader also loves to win, but rather than being fully focused on the next win or even a winning season, they have long-term vision. They are much more concerned with creating an attitude of optimism within their team, one that causes the team to desire to win as much as their coach does.
A coach is focused on making points. A leader is focused on making a difference. I believe one of the great business shifts we will see in the coming years is an acknowledgement that for organizations to truly succeed, we must once again focus on the development of our people. In fact, if you took all that I have written about leadership over my many years penning the People Power articles, it could be abbreviated to this: in the end, it’s all about the people. A president is only as good as the people with whom he or she is surrounded. A teacher that is focused on making a difference in the lives of their students instead of simply teaching them to pass a test has moved from the realm of teacher to leader. And I could go on. The point is, if it’s only about the score to you, then you are a coach. If it is about making a difference in the lives of those who look to you, then you are a leader.
Let me close with a lesson and a challenge. Fan or not, Robert Kraft, owner, and Bill Belichick, head coach, of the New England Patriots proved themselves leaders in the development of a sixth round draft pick by the name of Tom Brady, possibly one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Brady was the 199th overall draft pick in 2000. He was picked to be a back up quarterback. He entered the 2001 NFL Season as the number four quarterback on the Patriots’ depth charts. Few NFL teams even carry four quarterbacks, but the Patriots did. The question is why? The answer can likely be found in the first encounter between Robert Kraft and Brady. Kraft recently shared that when he first met Brady, the quarterback began to introduce himself to the owner. Kraft stopped him and said, “I know who you are. You’re Tom Brady, our sixth round draft pick.” Brady immediately replied, “Yes, and I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.” Kraft now, with a smile on his face, acknowledges that Brady was likely right.
So here is the lesson: a coach would have heard those words but continued to treat Tom Brady as the back-up quarterback he was drafted to be. Instead, a leader (and in this case two leaders, Kraft and Belichick) looked beyond Brady’s current position and dared to let him develop into the quintessential pro that he is today. Here is where you have something in common with one of the greats. It is likely that you are where you are today not because you were coached but because you were led. Someone saw in you what you may not have even seen in yourself.
And here is the challenge: Dave Ramsey in his book EntreLeadership says, “The big deal here is to remember that the very things you want from a leader are the very things the people you are leading expect from you.” So coach your team, children, spouse and others. Do your best to fully understand their strengths and where they are today. But don’t stop there. Focus on developing them into the successful people they can become by focusing on their potential and what is possible. I challenge you to lead!
Copyright 2012 Floor Focus