For The Love of The Team

When it comes to classic winning moments in sports, one of the more profound leadership moments in college football history happened at the 2018 BCS National Championship this past January. Though the Alabama Crimson Tide broke a tie and won in a thrilling fashion on the final play of the game, the classic leadership moment happened on the sidelines. So much so, people have not stopped talking about it since.

When Jalen Hurts, the starting QB for Alabama was struggling in the game, his backup Tua Tagovailoa came in to relieve him. Jalen had led the entire season and this was “his” winning moment. It was “his” championship. So when Coach Nick Saban made the change in the second half of the game, one would expect that Jalen Hurts would be well.. hurt. However, that was not the case. Swallowing any pride and putting his team first, he encouraged, celebrated and pushed his backup to the forefront in a beautiful display of humility and emotional intelligence.

This display holds within it many lessons for leaders to adopt in life and business practice. The ability of a leader to celebrate a win for others even when it was their investment, idea, or if they could have done it better, shows that the focus is on the overall win for the team. A win in this case is the displayed character of the person, not the accolade. Leaders who can celebrate the win even when it hurts their pride, show they have what it takes to move from good to great in leadership.  This is punctuated by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great.

“The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results. …It is very important to grasp that Level 5 leadership is not just about humility and modesty. It is equally about ferocious resolve, an almost stoic determination to do whatever needs to be done to make the company great.”

If humility and celebrating the accomplishments of others are so crucial to successful leadership, why are posturing, micromanagement, excessive control, aggressive/angry behavior, and grandstanding allowed to pervade? More insidious and less observable are  leaders who succeed will sometimes get ignored, snubbed, torn down or dismissed in their accomplishments with prejudice? The answer is, because it is easier.

It is easier to give directives and react harshly than to lead and guide. It is easier to micromanage than to give leadership away. It is easier to control mediocrity than to risk failure. It is easier to feel threatened by the success of others in fear that it may cast shade on the leader’s prowess. It is easier to tear someone down than to build them up. Leaders who struggle significantly in this area tend to ostracize their teams and create a wedge where fierce allegiance could exist.

Most leaders don’t set out to be the corporate equivalent of a “Mean Girl. However, many of the behaviors and attitudes reflected in business, non-profit, and municipal environments not only allow, but revere and celebrate these behaviors at times. They are often referred to as “strong management” or “directive leadership”.  There are certainly moments where strength and direction as a leader is necessary. Wise leaders know when to exercise direct communication. They have learned to wield the sword humbly, and in a timely fashion.

To lead your team to win, here are seven recommended behaviors to remind us how to lead well.

7 Steps To Sustain A Winning Team

  1. Look – Watch for ways you can celebrate the good. Watch for ways where you can serve or help. Look for teachable moments and constructive improvements along the way in light of successes.
  2. Listen – Ask how they are planning for success. Ask key questions that empower them to focus on that win. Ask how you can equip them toward that goal. Listen for feedback that helps you know how to lead them better.
  3. Love – Be passionate about their goals. Love their projects. Love their enthusiasm. Love what they bring to the table. Love helping them succeed.
  4. Like – Be kind. Speak truth with compassion. Treat them with respect and work toward understanding them as valuable members of a team.
  5. Labor – Work hard for their success. Invest your time and energy to what they need. Get them the resources they need to make their goal reachable.  Have the long-game in mind.
  6. Live – Bring passion and enthusiasm by living out what you are asking them to do. Be willing to “practice what you preach”.
  7. License – Give them freedom to lead. Let them have a stake in the race. Push them to create and generate new ideas. This means risking failure but learning and growing comes through that as well.  Be patient as leaders learn.

The legacy of Jalen Hurts is yet to be determined. However, one additional thing is worthy of notation. His moment of humility so far has endured. You see, after that championship moment he has been forced to recognize that this backup has superior strengths to his own. He is now the actual number ‘2’ and he has graciously stepped back to let the team succeed. On any level, this is impressive to see. Even if it is a struggle at times for young Jalen Hurts, he is a champion. He wears the ring of a champion. He has the heart of a leader. He seems to have the long game in mind. Every great leader should. I hope he endures and I hope his model of leadership will endure for us as well.  How will you lead your team to win?


These 7 steps to winning are just the beginning. They can be the catalyst toward present and future success. If you see patterns that you wish you improve in your leadership or team, our ShiftAgent coaching program or one of our seminars may be right for you. We are here for you, contact us and we will be glad to assist.