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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

All I Know About Leadership From Coaching Soccer

Back in 1986 during my days of coaching youth soccer (1983-1995), I wrote these lessons to capture my thoughts on leadership. Later I used them in writing Authentic Leadership and True North. See if they apply to your leadership:

All I Know About Leadership, I Learned from Soccer

  1. If you want a winning team, start with good talent.
  2. The coach’s job is to find each player’s “sweet spot” – his best place on the field – and then get players to play together as a team.
  3. It takes 5 years to build a very good team, but 10 years to create a real champion.
  4. The team that plays well together will always defeat a group of individual stars.
  5. Cultivate and nurture your stars, give them lots of leeway, but insist they become team players.
  6. It takes strong starters at every position, plus a few good alternates, to build a winning team.
  7. The coach must first admit his mistakes so the players can acknowledge theirs.
  8. Players who learn from their mistakes today will be more valuable than those who never make mistakes, and much better than those who repeat their errors.
  9. Never blame someone else for your mistakes or let your players get away with doing so.
  10. Never underestimate your competition.
  11. The wise team learns more from its losses than its victories.
  12. Take advantage of opportunities to upgrade your pool of talent. Develop your rookies: they will be tomorrow’s stars.
  13. There are players who would be happier and more effective playing for another team.
  14. Expect 100% effort in every game. If you get it and still don’t win, that’s okay – you’ll win next time.
  15. When players are fully prepared, the wise coach sits back and let them play their game, rather than coaching from the sidelines.
  16. There is a time when the coach should recognize he has done all he can do, and it is time for a new coach to take over.