I was reminded the other day of the Hellmann’s mayonnaise commercials that always ended with “Hellmanns, bring out the best.” It hit me then that the tagline “bring out the best” could very well be the tagline for a leader as well.
There are of course many ways to define leadership and many areas in which one can lead. The idea of bringing out the best, be it in the leader themselves or in the people who follow them, is almost universal. The best leaders are able to be the best version of themselves and to bring out the best in others as well.
I stumbled across a great example of this in action the other day as I was reading a football article. I don’t follow the offseason much but here and there I will check in. I was reading an article about everybody’s favorite team to hate, the New England Patriots. The article was talking about the draft and it seems that no one, not NFL analysts or even the Patriots’ own news people, could make sense of their draft choices.
In addition to the confusion, the various authors shared another common sentiment at the end of the articles. They all basically said, “It’s Bill Belichick though, so I’m sure he sees something and they’ll be a contender for the Super Bowl.”
How’s that for a vote of confidence? The writers don’t understand but have seen coach Belichick draw so much out of seemingly mundane players that they expect it. I don’t follow the Patriots particularly closely but as I thought about the little that I do know I began to understand why everyone reacted this way.
The Patriots regularly seem to get great performance from unexpected athletes. From Tom Brady himself to his number one receiver, Julian Edelman, the coaches are able to take players to the next level. Obviously the players themselves contribute an immense amount to that process too, but the organization shows consistent results seemingly regardless of who wears the jersey. Even when Tom Brady went down with a season ending injury they did well.
As a leader, I want to get the best out of my people as well. So I looked a bit more into the Patriots and what they do and I came across 3 things.
1) They think outside the box. The Patriots are often a step ahead of the curve when it comes to trends. They regularly challenge convention and try new things. I remember for instance one game last year in which they ran the ball less than ten times. Conventional football wisdom says you want a balanced run/pass attack. The Patriots recognized that their run game would be ineffective so they played to the pass game and they won.
Any leader can benefit from a willingness to try something new. We often don’t for fear of failure, but for those who have the courage to try it is always a rewarding experience. Either you win or you learn something new. Not a bad set of options.
2) They find a way to put their players in positions of strength. The Patriots do a great job of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their players and team overall. They then adjust accordingly. For example, the offensive line was a weakness of the team this last year. So they built the offense around getting the ball out of the backfield quickly. The players and scheme were built on this principal.
As a leader I try to regularly ask myself key questions about my own strengths and those of my people. Am I putting them in a position to excel or am I trying to do something that focuses on an area of weakness? How can I be creative and put my players in positions of strength? One great advantage we have today is technology. There are programs out there to do a huge number of things, and this affords us more flexibility than ever when it comes to what roles our people play.
3) The Patriots organization is known for their discipline. Their culture is very focused. It is rare to hear of a Patriots player in the news for anything other than football. Obviously it still happens from time to time but much less than in most teams.
As leaders it is essential that we know what the goal is and are able to pursue it 100%. Discipline and focus keep us on track and moving towards the goal. Without discipline and focus a leader is just a dreamer.
Whether it’s food, football, or leadership, let’s bring out the best.