Leaders Teaching Leaders
Miami University (Ohio), John Harbaugh's alma mater known as the "cradle of coaches," will unveil a statue of Harbs this afternoon to salute the Ravens head coach's career. He joined a most elite group with Miami ties that include three NFL Hall of Fame coaches (Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank and Sid Gilman) and three of the greatest collegiate coaches ever: Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian and Bo Schembechler, a role model for John.
Privately, Harbs is a little embarrassed about the attention he's receiving. It's so contrary to his belief that the most important thing is the "Team." We've all heard it from John: "The three most important parts of what we do are The Team, The Team and The Team. It's okay to let your light shine, but never put someone in your shadow." John is grateful to Miami, but he's more into sharing the spotlight as opposed to having it on him.
That's a main reason John is such a superb leader – he's the first coach in NFL history to go to and win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons; only the Patriots (76) have more wins than the Ravens' 71 victories since Harbs became the Ravens head coach in 2008. Like Steve Bisciotti, Harbs believes the best way to lead is to serve those around you. The Ravens head coach seeks ways to take players to higher levels through his relationship with each one. Sure, he has to stand in front of the room and say "Charge up the hill!" But, he spends large amounts of time helping players be better on and off the field.
You could expect to hear these words below from Harbs:
"You're going to inspire excellence and passion for what you're trying to accomplish. And you've got to keep talking about them, how you're going to get there. You've got to be passionate about those goals and objectives. My grandfather used to tell me anything worth accomplishing takes hard work. If it's handed to you, it's probably not worth doing. That's what life is about. It's about working hard to achieve excellence. And it feels better when you work hard to achieve it. That is important to me."
Sounds a lot like something Coach Harbaugh would say, right? (Or, maybe Ozzie Newsome to the Ravens scouts at the start of a new evaluation period?)
While Harbs and Oz believe in the above words, this time it wasn't being said by them, it was said to them by one of our country's respected leaders, General Raymond T. Odierno, the current Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.
Odierno, an impressive person who stands at 6-foot-6, holds a position once owned by former President Dwight Eisenhower and heralded generals Douglas MacArthur and John J. Pershing. "General O" stopped by a few days ago to talk about leadership to the Ravens coaches and personnel/scouting staff. After two trips John made to the Middle East to visit U.S. troops, Harbs and the General have become close friends.
"What a leader and command presence," Harbaugh said about Odierno. "He's thoughtful and wise. I know our coaches and scouts appreciated the time he gave us. The General was gracious to accept our invitation to share his beliefs."
"General O" made his presentation in the same boardroom we used when we interviewed Coach Harbaugh for our head coaching position six and half years ago. Listening to Odierno talk about leadership sounded a lot like the words we heard from Harbs back then.
Odierno told our staff about the three basic tenants he uses to lead the U.S. Army: competence, commitment and character. "To have competence, you have to have people willing to continue to learn. You must have commitment to each other and to the institution. People with character flaws will take you down. Nothing tears a group apart more than people with character deficiencies."
When Harbs interviewed for the Ravens' job, he said: "I believe you win with good players who have great character who want to be the best they can be. They have to believe in the team and that working shoulder-to-shoulder - side-by-side - you will win."
Both Odierno and Harbaugh spoke of humility and the importance of that to leadership. Odierno said "Humility is key. You have to provide a path and make a stand, but you have to be willing to look for answers from those around you and be willing to admit mistakes and change paths. If you're competent, committed, have great character and show great humility, you're likely to be incredibly successful at what you do. "
For John, it is never "I." It is always "we" and "us." It is "The Team."
After Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak asked the General how to deliver a message about staying positive in tough times, Odierno told a story about troops in Afghanistan: "It was 120 degrees and we're telling soldiers you have to wear 120 pounds of equipment and do a patrol on this town. You have to tell them the why. 'If you don't do this today, tomorrow there may be 10 bombs planted that could kill innocent people.' They have to understand the purpose."
Reminded me of the December loss in 2012 to the Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium. Our plan and execution failed that day. We lost 34-17. After the defeat, John addressed the Ravens in the locker room and his first words were: "We have to coach better and we will. We're still in this and we'll come back next week and find a way to beat the Giants, make the playoffs and no one will want to face us then. How do we do that? We go back to work. We have each other's backs, we don't point fingers and we keep moving forward."
You remember what happened. We thumped the defending Super Bowl champion Giants (33-14) the following Sunday, made the playoffs and went on to win the Super Bowl, which included that 38-35 overtime victory at Denver a few weeks later in the Divisional Round.
Odierno impressed us all. It was special. Know what I noticed throughout the presentation? John Harbaugh, the servant leader always looking to improve, took copious notes throughout. Great leaders never believe they have all the answers and always are seeking more knowledge.
Some Offseason Encouragement
NFL.com asked six NFL experts which non-playoff team from 2013 has the best chance to win the Super Bowl this season. Three of the six picked the Ravens. Former Washington General Manager Charley Casserly said: "Joe Flacco and the Ravens still have a championship mix…and the best balance between offense and defense."
Nice. But, we have lots of work to do and some proven leaders are leading the climb.
Talk with you soon,