For the non football fans reading this, please read on – the lesson is well worth the football example.
I am an Indianapolis Colts fan and I am writing this just a few hours after they came from 13 points behind in the fourth quarter to beat their nemesis the New England Patriots 35-34. With just over 2 minutes to go, the Patriots had 4th and 2 at their own 28 yard line. Everyone in the stadium, and everyone watching knew it was time for a Patriots punt.
But Bill Belichick, the three time Super Bowl winning coach, and the leader of the Patriots thought otherwise.
He went for it.
On a close play the Colts held them short and had the ball 29 yards from the wining touchdown with 2 minutes to go. They scored the winning touchdown with :13 on the clock.
As a Colts fan I am happy about the outcome, but as I went to bed last night, I knew there was a tremendous leadership coaching lesson in this situation.
Here is what the traditional wisdom says (and what all the pundits will be saying today).
- You have to punt the ball there. If you miss it on fourth down you give Peyton Manning e ball just 29 yards from victory with plenty of time on the clock.
- When you punt it you make Manning and the Colts go 60-70 yards – a much better position to be in.
- When you don’t punt you are sending a message to your defense that you don’t trust them – and there could be problems that causes fr the res the season.
As you look at these traditional wisdom answers they are all about the low risk approach to the situation.
Most of us in corporate leadership or executive leadership would profess that great leaders take risks, and yet, I’m guessing most of those same people who watched the game (especially in New England) feel like Belichick made a big mistake.
We can’t have it both ways.
The longer I think about it from a leadership perspective, the more I applaud the coach’s decision. Look at the situation from a differently.
- The Colts hadn’t really stopped the Patriots on short yardage much all game.
- If they do get the 2 yards, the game is essentially over – if the Colts can’t get the ball, they don’t even have a chance to score.
- By going for it, coach Belichick shows tremendous confidence in his offense – arguably the stronger part of his team. (By the way, this confidence shows and remains even when they don’t succeed).
This is a real life example of a leader standing up and making a decision, one that in this case, didn’t turn out in his favor.
We can all make the easy, traditional and safe decisions. Yet if we want to be innovative leaders, if we want to make a difference fr our teams, organizations and communities, sometimes we must risk failure or defeat in order to reach our goals.
Here is your leadership question for the day.
When did you last take a real risk in a decision?
If you can’t think of that last instance, you are likely playing it too safe, being too traditional, and not leading to your full potential.