6 Leadership Lessons From Pete Carroll

By February 4, 2014Leadership, Product Management, Skills

As a long time Seattle Seahawks fan, a dream came true when they won the Super Bowl.  As a student of leadership, I took some time to reflect on the leadership of Pete Carroll.

Here are 6 things I learned from Pete Carroll about leadership.

1. Age is a state of mind. Pete Carroll is 62 years old. He is the 3rd oldest coach in Super Bowl history. Yet, he jumps around and has the energy of a 20 year old. His mind is active, he is relaxed, and he is sharp. Ageism (also spelled “agism”) is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. Whether it’s a study out of Princeton or Yale, an NBC News or NY Times article, or any number of papers on the subject, Pete Carroll shows the world that old people still rock. His players love him, and he has showed he has one of the best football minds in the game. A leader always keeps sharp and focused.

2. Optimism works. Pete Carroll is known for his optimism. Optimism from the leader when spoken into the life of a player or employee, when used correctly can help that person believe in themselves. If the leader can correctly recognize the talents of his or her team and create an environment for that person to succeed, amazing things can happen.  A note of caution though, it doesn’t guarantee success, it just makes your chances better. As a leader, always be optimistic.

3. Make it fun! There are many examples where great workplaces produce outstanding results. If you listen to the Seattle Seahawks they talk about how much fun they are having. It’s clear that people perform better when they are having fun. Silicon Valley takes this to a whole new level. If you visit companies like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, or Apple you will find employees having fun. It’s not unusual to see ping pong tables, foosball tables, or other games where employees can have some fun with their colleagues. As a leader be sure to bring some fun to the table.

4. Success comes after failure. One thing that can be learned from Pete Carroll’s success at Seattle is that it was after he was fired from both the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. He points back to that time in life as to the time that gave him the focus for his success. As a leader understand failure is a great opportunity to learn and grow and is very often a precursor to success.

5. Always get better. Win everyday is a philosophy that was born out of Pete’s failure. http://www.winforever.com/petes-story While reading a book by John Wooden (another great coach), he changed his philosophy to being the best he can be. That’s the fundamental philosophy around the Seahawks team. If every player can be the best he can be with a focus on continuous improvement, the results follow. As a leader, we need to always get better to strive to be the best we can be in addition to helping those around us to do the same. The leader can create an environment where everyone gets better.

6. It’s all about the players. So often teams get caught up in a particular offense or a defense. Teams in the corporate world do much the same in focusing on Agile or the latest and greatest technology. The focus is taken off the person and put on the process or technology. In Pete’s system the focus is on a vision for each player and coach. To help each person be the best person they can be. As a leader in today’s fast paced technology driver world, we need to focus on each team members success.

“It’s about being the very best you can be. Nothing else matters as long as you’re working and striving to be your best. Always compete. It’s truly that simple. Find the way to do your best. Compete in everything you do.” -Pete Carroll

“It’s about us getting ready to play. It’s not about the other team. We’ll beat ourselves before they beat us. That’s always our approach.” -Pete Carol

The winforever approach to Seattle Seahawks football:

Three rules:

  1. Always protect the team;
  2. No whining, no complaining, no excuses;
  3. Be early.

Style: Great effort, great enthusiasm, great toughness, play smart.

Beliefs: It’s all about the ball. … Everything counts. … Respect everyone.

Philosophy: Do things better than they have ever been done before.

Everything rises and falls on leadership. If there is a single skill required for a good product manager, it is leadership. As a leader, let’s follow the example of Pete Carroll and be the best leader we can be.