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What Brad Childress and Mike Shanahan Need to Learn about Real Leadership

Coaches Mike Shanahan, of the Washington Redskins, and Brad Childress, of the Minnesota Vikings, were highly criticized for poor decisions that they made this past week. Towards the end of the 4th quarter against the Detroit Lions, with the game still in reach, Shanahan decided to bench his star quarterback, Donovan Mcnabb, in favor of backup Rex Grossman. Shanahan explained that he benched Mcnabb because he felt that his backup quarterback, Rex Grossman, gave his team the best chance to win. Fans were dumbfounded that a backup quarterback that has had very little success in the NFL would be better suited to rally the team to victory than a tried and tested Pro Bowl quarterback Interestingly, the next day, Shanahan offered another explanation as to why Mcnabb was benched, saying that he wasn’t in great physical shape to run the two minute offense. Mcnabb is in shape to play the entire game except for the last 5-6 minutes because he is out of shape. Really? Something does not sound right. There must be more to this story than us fans know about. Perhaps Jason Whitlock’s theory is correct; maybe Mcnabb doesn’t get along with the offensive coordinator of the Redskins, who happens to be Shanahan’s son, Kyle, and Mike benched Mcnabb to protect his son. Regardless, Shanahan made an extremely poor decision.

Let’s move back west to Minnesota. The Vikings are a complete disaster. Every week there is another saga involving Brett Farve; and this week has been no different. However, the Brett Favre circus was overshadowed by his former teammate Randy Moss and his bizzare antics after their game against the Patriots. As a result of his media rant and other distractions and unprofessional behavior over the month with the team, Moss was waived by the Vikings. To be sure, Moss is no stranger to inappropriate behavior, and when the Vikings brought him back to Minnesota last month they must have known what they were getting into by acquiring him. Isn’t it puzzling then, that one month later he was waived. Why? For acting like he usually does! The only person to blame is Brad Childress. He was responsible for bringing Moss back to Minnesota and is now responsible for letting him go. He has also been responsible for allowing Brett Favre’s nonsense to distract his team every single week. How many more distractions does his team need? And what kind of coach allows this type of anarchy?

It should come as no surprise that both teams do not have winning records. The Vikings, who were a pre-season Super Bowl pick, are now 2-5, and probably will not make the playoffs. The Redskins, with all their talent and deep pockets, are only 4-4 and are 2nd to last in their division.

It appears that the poor decisions these coaches made were done without thinking of the team. The coaches put their own egos and self-interests in front of what is best for the organization; and that’s terribly wrong. A coach’s responsibility is to place his ego and his needs aside for the benefit of the team. A coach’s job is to lead his team; to unify and inspire them to work together to achieve greatness. A good coach sets the tone for his team to help them grow as a unit. He leads them to greatness and guides them on the right path. But that’s only if he puts the team first.

It would be helpful for these coaches to recall one of the timeless stories of the greatest leader in Jewish tradition, Moses, who was offered a ‘once in a lifetime’ deal from God: After the Jewish nation sinned by worshiping the Golden Calf, God told Moses that he intended to wipe out the entire Jewish nation, and build a new one through him. Imagine, for a moment, the feelings that would run through your mind when offered an opportunity of that magnitude. Just think of all the endless possibilities to look forward to: No more unnecessary complaints from other people who disagree with your policies, no more rebellions against your leadership, and a nation completely and utterly devoted to God. It would be a dream come true to be put in that position! Yet, Moses, didn’t even think twice about abandoning his people. Moses rejected the idea out of hand, because it was not in the best interests of his nation. Sure, it would have benefited him greatly; but Moses understood that real leadership requires you to put aside your own self-interests for the benefit of the greater good.

A coach that creates unnecessary controversy and distractions for his team accomplishes the opposite. A coach is supposed to lead the way; without leading them astray. Indeed, Shanahan and Childress, are taking their respective teams in the wrong direction.

What can be said of a coach is true for all people in positions of leadership. A leader needs to cultivate, inspire, and guide his team, congregation, or organization to greatness. That requires him to do what’s best for the organization he is leading and not necessarily what is in his own narrow self-interest. If a leader is merely concerned about himself, and how his decisions will be perceived by outsiders, he invariably will make poor decisions and will end up losing the respect and support of his organization. A person can only be a leader, if he has others that are willing to follow him. A leader without followers is just a guy out for a walk.

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3 Responses

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  1. Steve Kaplan says

    Nice post, I enjoyed it. Did you know that, amazingly, if you google “Mike Shanahan”, “Moses”, and “golden calf”, this post is the 1st hit?

  2. canon cameras Powershot says

    You could definitely see your enthusiasm in the work
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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Tweets that mention Religious Leadership for Sports Coaches -- linked to this post on November 4, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rabbi Joshua Hess, Rabbi Joshua Hess. Rabbi Joshua Hess said: @WhitlockJason your articles from this week are the motivation 4 mine on Religious Leadership for Coaches Big Fan! […]

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