Every leader, good or bad, should be your teacher. It's just more fun to learn from successful leaders.
Whether you are a football fan or not, LA Rams Head Coach Sean McVay is a great leader to study. In a sport where age and experience create a perception of one's ability, McVay has risen to the challenge and showed that age was just a number. At the ripe age of 36, he is the winningest active coach in the NFL and the youngest coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl.
While McVay has the work ethic of many great coaches with the intellect to match, that's not what's most impressive. His leadership and, specifically, what he leads with that sets him apart.
McVay said it well in a recent interview, "Good coaches help their players reach their highest potential. In order to do that, it starts with being able to connect with them as human beings first. You do that by believing in guys and caring about them. When you care about the players you are working with, that's when they want to play hard for you."
McVay's comments could be summarized in a simple and powerful leadership lesson: care for your people. Because when you care for your people you earn the opportunity to get everything they have. Caring means a feeling of being concerned for someone and having an urge to show kindness to them.
When you boil leadership down to the simplest form, the simple act of authentically caring for someone is leadership.
The simple act of authentically caring for someone is leadership.
In order to show your people you care, much as Sean McVay does, you have to get to know them on a professional and personal level. This starts with asking them authentic questions about their journey, experiences, challenges, and aspirations. So instead of just going through the motions, you have to be intent on listening and then remembering what you hear, so you can adjust your actions in the future to show them you listened.
Beyond the tough yet straightforward leadership lesson of caring for your team first, there are three other lessons that you should model in your leadership approach from McVay.
McVay is a leadership junkie who reads, listens, and absorbs ideas from every possible place to apply them with his team. A great example of this was when he was asked about surpassing Steelers Legendary Coach Mike Tomlin as the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. Not only did he give a glowing response to the kind of leader and man Tomlin is, but he gave us a secret to leadership.
"Mike (Tomlin) is a great example for all leaders as far as how you are demanding but uplifting to your players. How you're so steady and so mentally tough in those moments when your team needs it the most."
Great leaders are demanding but uplifting to their team.
It's easy for managers to measure performance based on outcomes. While results are essential, McVay doesn't believe they are the best measure of performance. On an episode of the Flying Coach Podcast, McVay said something that caught me off guard, "Consistency is the truest measure of performance."
Consistency is the truest measure of performance.
The closer you look at his words the more accurate they become. In business or sports, the reality is that we rarely, if ever, control the outcome. However, we can control how consistent we are with our effort, preparation, attitude, and energy.
We can't control the result, but we can control how consistent we are with our effort, preparation, attitude, and energy.
When every single member of a team shows up consistently at their highest level, there is a good chance the outcome will match. However, if the results don't end up favorable, McVay and other great leaders can live with the result because they know their team was consistently excellent in their actions.
If you are a fan of HBO's hit series Ted Lasso, you know all about the main character's positive leadership approach that includes a simple locker room sign that says, "believe." McVay channels his inner Lasso with phrases and mantra's on walls of the LA Rams facility like:
"The Standard is the Standard"
"We Not Me"
"One Rule - Be On Time"
"Embrace the Suck"
However, it's another leadership saying behind the desk in his office that grasped my attention. All it says is "Urgent Enjoyment." In a world that moves faster than ever before, and opportunities come and go seemingly before they arrive, urgent enjoyment is the perfect mantra for a leader and team. I like to think of the term this way:
Urgent - We don't know what will happen tomorrow
Enjoyment - Find joy and passion in work
You don't know what will happen tomorrow, so you might as well be urgent today.
The urgent part is easy for most leaders. The enjoyment part is much more difficult. While work isn't meant to be easy, no one says you shouldn't have fun while doing it.
Whether you were happy about the outcome of the LA Rams NFL Championship, take leadership lessons from Sean McVay. Care about your people first, be demanding but uplifting, embrace consistency as the truest measure of performance, and lastly, lead with urgent enjoyment.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.