The Leadership Lessons of Legendary Football Coach Bill Walsh

January 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

It has been eighteen years since the San Francisco 49ers won their last Super Bowl. From 1982 through 1995 the San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowl Championships and established themselves as one of the top franchises in the National Football League. Bill Walsh’s leadership transformed the 49ers from one of the worst franchises to a dynasty. He was an innovator, a leader and a mentor who had a fantastic eye for talent. The West Coast Offense changed the way football was played. He developed many assistants who are now NFL Head Coaches. The Bill Walsh “Coaching Tree” continues to have a major impact on the National Football League. Sadly Bill Walsh died in 2007 from leukemia at the age of 75.

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I am a lifelong New York Giants fan. I fondly remember the intense rivalry that the Giants of the Bill Parcell’s era had with the 49ers.

Prior to his death, Walsh granted exclusive interviews to bestselling author Steve Jamison. They became his ultimate lecture on leadership. Listed below are some of his key insights:

  • Developing a successful team starts with developing a successful culture.
  • The Leader Sets the Tone
  • Believe in People: Push them hard to be their very best. No one will ever come back later and thank you for expecting too little of them.
  • Professionalism Matters: There was no showboating allowed after touchdowns, no taunting of opponents, no demonstration to attract attention to oneself: “Champions act like champions before they’re champions.”
  • Protect your Blind Side: Prompt yourself to aggressively analyze not only your organization’s strengths, but also its unseen vulnerabilities
  • Sometimes You Can’t Have The Last Word. A leader cannot escape harsh criticism. Ignore the undeserving; learn from the deserving. Lick your wounds and move on. Your bruised ego will get over it.

The elements of successful leadership are the same whether you are running an NFL team, a Fortune 500 company or a small retail store.

What was Bill Walsh’s major contribution to the National Football League?

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