Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Leadership Drive to the Super Bowl

Volume: February 2014


By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


According to a recent NFL Nation Confidential poll, the qualities that professional football players value the most in a head coach are honesty, fairness, and intelligence. As you might expect, the quality they disliked the most was a dictatorial approach. In sum, NFL players are looking for a leader they can trust.  Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN.com put it this way: Coaches with the right qualities “…make players feel good about coming to work.” It should come as no surprise then that the leaders who coached in yesterday’s Super Bowl were both highly rated with regard to honesty, fairness, and intelligence. Seattle’s Pete Carroll was rated number one and Denver’s John Fox was rated number three. So if a leader possesses the qualities of honesty, fairness, and intelligence does this guarantee their success and the high performance of their team? Well, not exactly. Research tells us that there are no set of leadership qualities that makes a leader great. However, leaders who are consistently fair, intelligent, and honest certainly have a leg up on leaders who are less so. Let’s take a look at what these qualities can do for all types of leaders and their team.


  1. Honesty. Knowing that a leader will be truthful is one of the hallmarks of creating followership. Keep in mind that honesty does not mean always delivering pleasant messages. Quite the contrary, it is the acid-test of effective leaders to be able to engage in difficult conversations in an honest manner. What honesty does is set the expectation that the workplace will be one of truth. Workplaces that experience a great deal of truth tend to enjoy more camaraderie, enhanced rapport, and undeniably better performance.

  3. Fairness. Treating team members fairly shows consistency in leadership. And consistency is king. Similar to honesty, being fair does not always mean being pleasant. Clearly, there are many occasions during a leader’s career when being fair means delivering “tough love.” That being said, when team members know that their leader will be fair, no matter what the circumstances, it allows people to be authentic. Team member authenticity is a beautiful thing because it reduces Us Versus Them, the size of the grapevine, and the desire to be petty. All these wonderful reductions can occur solely because team members know that their leader does not go on witch hunts, and that workplace challenges will be examined fairly and logically.

  5. Intelligence. Okay all you high IQ people out there, don’t get snooty. Intelligence does not always relate to the impressiveness of a person’s IQ. Emotional Intelligence comes in to play here as well. In other words, a leader’s self-awareness, ability to self-manage, social-awareness, and social skill are as important as the level of their IQ. In addition, experience comes in to play in this category. And experience has a lot more to do with keen observations and wisdom than it does with tenure or age. There are many wise/intelligent people in their 70’s and also in their 20’s.     


So where does this information lead us? The answer is to take a step back and assess your strengths in each area. In other words ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I building and reinforcing a culture that seeks truth and strives to be honest (even when honesty creates a sticky situation)?
  2. Am I fair, and do I demand a fairness-mindset from others in the organization?
  3. Am I being smart? In other words, am I weaving my God-given smarts with my emotional intelligence and first-hand experiences in order to be the best leader I can be?


Bottom Line: With great intention seek to be honest, fair, and smart. In fact, your actions should indelibly imprint on your team’s mind that you possess these admirable qualities. Build your organization’s culture on fairness and truth. It will lead to clear expectations, excellent communication, and wonderful team success. You may not win the Super Bowl, few have, but you will position your team to be a part of something meaningful and magical.


Until next time, be well.



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