Planter: Don’t Be a Flash in the Pan—7 Long-Haul Keys

How to be a leader who stands the test of time and leaves an inspiring legacy.

No leader wants to be a flash in the pan. They all want to have sustainable success and stand the test of time. Furthermore, leaders want to leave a legacy that inspires others to accomplish great things.

I was going through some old files and came across a USA Today article on former Super Bowl champion head coach Mike Holmgren. His resume is Hall Of Fame worthy.

a. 170-111 overall record in 17 years of coaching.

b. 15 times finished first or second in his division.

c. Molded quarterbacks Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselback.

d. Coached two different teams (Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks) to the Super Bowl and had three Super Bowl appearances overall.

e. 1996 Super Bowl champion with the Packers.

At the time of the article’s writing, Holmgren was in executive leadership with the Cleveland Browns. As I read Jon Saraceno’s profile of this great leader, I gleaned …

Seven Practices of Leaders Who Stand the Test of Time:

1. Have Stable Leadership

Browns team owner Al Lerner passed away in 2002. Since then, the Browns’ front office has been characterized by instability and poor drafts. There have been four team presidents, six general managers and five head coaches at the time of the article. During that time, the Browns had a combined 38-74 (34 percent) record.

2. Understand Failure Is Never Final

Holmgren was originally hired in 1998 as Seattle’s Executive Vice President/General Manager and head coach. After four seasons, he was stripped of his executive responsibilities. Freed up to focus solely on coaching, the Seahawks appeared in the Super Bowl three years later.

3. Are Decisive

As a coach, Holmgren was a master strategist who approached football like a game of chess and enjoyed making quick decisions. Ironically, his undoing as a GM was partially because of his inability to make quick personnel decisions.

4. Know Their Limitations

Play to your strengths. Having the two jobs in Seattle resulted in Holmgren not being able to focus on what he needed to: coaching. Bifurcated leadership is almost always unsuccessful.

5. Acquire Talent

Holmgren’s first priority as Browns team president was hiring the right coach. He decided to retain current head coach Eric Mangini. The second priority was acquiring better talent. In retrospect, both Mangini and the talent he acquired were insufficient.

6. Know How to Leverage Their Influence

Holmgren developed his leadership style under former 49ers coach Bill Walsh. He then groomed Mangini. It was a relationship Mangini valued and stated, “If someone helps you avoid mistakes, you would be foolish not to embrace them.”

7. Are Devoted to Their Family

As driven and a perfectionist as Holmgren was, I was impressed with his work as a missionary and the reality that the geographic separation from his family (three of his four daughters lived in the Pacific Northwest while he was in Cleveland) was very difficult for him. Leaders, your occupation is important. However, your faith and family are the two most important things in your life?

If you have stability in executive leadership, understand failure, know your limitations, are decisive, acquire talent, leverage your influence, and keep faith and family first, you are on your way to becoming a leader who stands the test of time.

Brian Dodd
Brian Dodd is a church stewardship & leadership consultant. See www.briandoddonleadership.com for additional insights.