Thoughts on Life & Leadership

A Junto Strategy Project

X’s and O’s or Jim’s and Joe’s

I am a bit of a sport’s talk junkie, especially now that football season is finally under way. As I listened to the head coach of North Dakota State be interviewed on the radio, I got a great little leadership nugget from his interview. In response to the question about schemes and the new types of offenses being run (spread option, pro-style, etc.), he made the simple but profound comment, “At the end of the day, it isn’t about the x’s and o’s, it is about the Jims and the Joes.”

Who is that "O"?

Who is that “O”?

I think so often in the consulting and even leadership development world we get caught up in the most recent model like Emotional Intelligence or some new research about “competency models.” We seem to forget (I include myself in this royal we) that at the end of the day the models don’t mean a whole heck of a lot without the people.

This coach from the best FCS college football program in the country has leadership pretty well figured out. His people matter most and any model or great scheme or new fangled approach matters little if he forgets to look at the people first. That simple idea doesn’t bring in big $$ consulting contracts or lend itself well to book royalties or to getting published in the top tier academic journals, but it seems to be working and at the highest level by someone having to live with an idea versus simply studying one and then writing about it.

And for my money, I’ll go with the guy who day in and day out has to “eat his own dog food” when it comes to organizational development versus the overpriced consultant who’s ready to sell me on the next great idea.

After all leadership isn’t a model, it’s what happens everyday between ordinary people.

(BTW, there is a funny Bill Cosby bit about when he was playing football and his coach was blocking all kinds of people with a piece of chalk, kind of like leadership gurus fixing all sorts of business woes with research studies and books. Here’s a link to the text of the bit. Enjoy.)

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