Leadership Through the Eyes of Jack Harbaugh

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The Ravens' main theme was established by head coach John Harbaugh nearly 14 months ago when he was first hired.

But for him, the lesson had been ingrained his entire life.

Stemming from the teachings of Bo Schembechler, the legendary University of Michigan coach under whom Harbaugh's father, Jack, served for many years, the focus is never on one player. Never on a single coach.

It is all about the team, and the younger Harbaugh said as much in his introductory press conference, recalling a childhood spent prowling the sidelines during Wolverine practices.

"When you grow up in that environment, part of your life values, the thing you learn is that there are three important things [to] putting together a football team," Harbaugh said in January of 2008. "No. 1, the team; No. 2 is the team; and the third most important thing is the team. We'll stick with that through and through, beginning to end. That's what it's all about."

When Harbaugh originally uttered that statement, some might have thought he was only referring to the football side of Baltimore's operations.

Not so.

Harbaugh meant everyone in the Ravens' Owings Mills, Md., headquarters (and those based out of M&T Bank Stadium, as well).

To pound his point home, Harbaugh enlisted Jack Harbaugh to speak to the entire organization Wednesday morning about his views on leadership and team building.

What began with a rousing cheer of "Aye Zigga Zoomba," the classic fight song when Jack was a player at Bowling Green State University, turned into an inspiring perspective on how the Ravens can improve both on the field and in the office.

"First and foremost, you need a leader, and you are so blessed to have - in my opinion - the finest leader in the NFL, and that's Steve Bisciotti," Jack said of the Ravens' owner. "With Dick Cass here, there is a great leadership team. A leadership team has five things:

1) Vision - "Guys like Bo Schembechler were able to look out a window, and where I saw a tree and a parking lot, Bo saw so much more. Steve Bisciotti and his leadership team see what this program is going to be more than just one year from now.

2) A Plan - "Whether it's written or not, it's a plan to get from A to Z. You don't get to D and then say, 'Everything will just work itself out.'"

3) The Best People Surrounding It - "All the pieces need to be in place, people that buy into the vision and the plan."

4) Problem Solver - "When someone asked him if he wanted to sleep on a decision, Bo used to say, 'Sleep on it? No! There's a right way to do it and a wrong way. Let's do it the right way, and all of us will sleep very well."

5) Patience - "That is why [longtime Penn State head coach] Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno. You need to be patient and committed. Things won't happen overnight."

Jack Harbaugh recommended a book on Schembechler called "Bo's Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership," a gift that John Harbaugh has given to each of his assistants.

Some of those assistants were already familiar with Schembechler. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron began his coaching career as an assistant under Schembechler, while assistant offensive line coach Andy Moeller served as one of Schembechler's captains when he played at Michigan.

The Ravens' coaches had to stick to those teachings early in their first season in Baltimore.

John Harbaugh recalled a time during training camp last year, where the oppressive Mid-Atlantic humidity and his trademark physical practices began to wear down some of the players, both mentally and physically.

He told the team that the demanding schedule was all part of the plan. Harbaugh insisted that the Ravens would be stronger than their opponents later in the season, and it worked. Baltimore won its first two games, and then slightly slid before reeling off a 9-2 record to close the year.

After each victory, the sense of "team" only got stronger.

"We were pushing guys pretty hard, but we asked the guys to trust us," John Harbaugh said. "We went out the next day and practiced as hard as we always do. Then we went up against Cincinnati, wore them down and beat them. We were going to be stronger in December and into January than in September."

The 2009 campaign will be even more of the same, except Harbaugh has his eye on getting past the AFC Championship and contending for a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

"We're planning on winning many Super Bowls, but that's not what we're about," he continued. "It's the process of getting there every single day. We're scaling the wall and trying to get over the top, and everyone is a part of that."

And both father and son believe it takes more than just those wearing purple and black on Sundays.

"To go as far as we did, there is something going on here that is historic," John told the packed auditorium. "We were new coaches, but for us to come in here and add a little piece to what has already been built. What are we about and what do we build on? All of us. We care about one another and trust one another."

It all goes back to the Harbaughs' first day in Baltimore as official Ravens. Mom and dad accompanied John, his wife, Ingrid, and daughter, Alison, to the facility. They all sat in the front row of the press conference when the new head coach relayed his opening message.

First, second and third, it was all about the team.

"I was so proud of him then, because I thought, 'Bo Schembechler lived on that day,'" admitted Jack Harbaugh.

The elder Harbaugh finished his talk with one more piece of advice.

"Your talent determines what you can do, your motivation determines how much you're willing to do and your attitude determines how well you do it," he explained. "Those are qualities that you have to instill to be successful."

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