WilBear 11-02-015

Bear Bryant on Leadership

Six Lessons from a Six-Time National Championship Coach


Pat Williams with Tommy Ford

Advantage, 2010, 201 pp.  ISBN 978-1-59932-210-0



Pat Williams has been a sports executive for more than 40 years and is the author of more than 10 books on leadership.  Paul (Bear) Bryant, the most high-profile coach in college football history, is perhaps the third best known name in the South, after Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  In 25 years as Alabama's head coach, his teams won 14 SEC and six national championships and he became by the time he retired, the winningest college football coach of all time.  This book, made up almost entirely of quotations and observations of former players, opponents, and colleagues, is a natural for sports enthusiasts.  The book is divided into sections on vision, communication, people skills, character, competence, boldness, and a serving heart.  Paul Bryant died in January, 1983, just a few weeks after coaching his last game. 


"Bryant knew what vision was all about.  He saw the future before it arrived." (25)  Vision keeps you focused, keeps you fueled, and helps you finish.  (26)   He met with the freshmen recruits in 1958 and told them what football should mean to them and what the program would be.  He challenged them with what it would take to do it, and they believed him.  "And every time I saw them after that I felt the same way.  The pride they had.  They had a goal and they never lost sight of it." (28)


"Motivation has been defined as 'getting others to do what you want them to do, because they want to do it."  (45)  "Are you just content with what you do, or are you committed to what you do?" (67)


"Great leaders have a heart for people; they care about other people; they're interest in people; they have empathy for people; they love people."  "Eddie Robinson, the great Grambling coach said you have to coach every player as if he were going to marry your daughter.  He said, 'You can't coach 'em if you don't love 'em.'" (77) 


"The highest compliment you can pay anybody is to listen to them and truly focus on them in an uninterrupted fashion.  To me, it's the ultimate people skill.  Equally important is to ask them questions, like, 'What do you think?  How are things going with you?  What would you do if you were in my situation?  How would you make this call?'" (84) 


"Coach Bryant never missed an opportunity to praise a coach or a player…."  (87)  "Make your praise mean something.  I like sugar, but not a whole truckload of it." (88)


"To a man, they talked about Bryant's mastery of the mental side of football, how he willed them to win, how he took the average players and made them great, how he made them better people, and how he sought 'one heartbeat, one team.'" (100) 


"There are just three things I ever say: If anything goes bad, then I did it.  If anything goes semi-good, then we did it.  If anything goes real good, then you did it.  That's all it takes to get people to win football games for you."  (Paul W. "Bear" Bryant)


"You can no more have leadership without character than you can have water without the wet." (105)  "I've always had the impression that the tongue in Coach Bryant's mouth was pointing in the same direction as the tongue in his shoes; his walk and his talk matched." (106)  "Also, Coach was honest enough and willing enough to own up to his mistakes.  That's an endearing quality when you admit to your faults." (107) 


"It's not the will to win that matters.  Everyone has that.  It's the will to prepare to win that matters."  (116, Paul Brant)  "'Being tired makes cowards of us all.'  Every day in my life there is something I've got to press through and get done.  Those lessons on perseverance form Coach Bryant will stick with me forever."  "Alabama football was all about never quitting." (119)


"When you win, you should be thankful and humble.  When you are at rock bottom, don't ever give up, keep fighting, and ultimately, success will come again."  (121)


"When we played on Saturday afternoons…there'd be 60,000 in the stands, including our friends and families.  That crowd didn't matter because the only person we cared about pleasing was that man on the sideline with the hat on." (121)


"I don't care what you wear, but look good, act good, and talk good.  You are representing the University of Alabama and you have to look good when you travel with me.  Be a gentleman and always act with class."  (124, Coach Bryant)


At the end of the day, you lead by your influence.  (125)


"You can't teach unless you're committed to being a learner.  And the reason you must learn is because the world is changing so fast." (141)


The best leaders are organized and prepared.  "He once told me that for every minute of practice, his coaches spent ten minutes planning." (151)


Balance between professional life and personal life may have been Coach Bryant's greatest weakness, which is probably the same with all the great leaders.  (159)

He was a very compassionate man.  He was very sensitive and humble and he understood people.  (189) 



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