10 Leadership Tips from 'The Bear'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Paul Sturges
  • 22nd Maintence Group
Since 1971, I've been able to attend nearly one football game a year at the University of Alabama with my father and brother.

As an impressionable 4-year-old, I even had the opportunity to meet legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant while signing copies of his autobiography.

In his book, he described the leadership philosophies he employed to win six national championships. These tips are as applicable to our duties as Airmen as they are to the gridiron.

10. "I'll never give up on a player regardless of his ability as long as he never gives up on himself. In time he will develop." God did not create us all equal in ability. A leader will realize some Airmen will take longer to develop than others; however, Airmen also need to exhibit a willingness to do so.

9. "Set goals - high goals for you and your organization. When your organization has a goal to shoot for, you create teamwork, people working for a common good." Many successful organizations are those whose goals are visible and clearly understandable. Leaders are to ensure the team understands the importance of achieving these goals.

8. "If you whoop and holler all the time, the players just get used to it." Your people watch how you react to adversity. There is a time and place for wall-to-wall counseling; however, if it's commonplace in an organization, it will quickly lose its effectiveness.

7. "If your assistant coaches aren't smarter than you are, then you don't need them!" Gen. George Patton put it this way, "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

6. "What matters is not the size of the dog in the fight, but of the fight in the dog." Often, the best suggestions a leader will hear come from the bottom, not the top, of the organizational chart.

5. "It's not the will to win that matters - everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters." Whether it be in combat, a unit compliance inspection or an intramural game, we should all want to win. In the end, the ones who "train like they fight" and commit to preparing for the battle will end up as winners.

4. "Tough times don't last, but tough people do." We all are going to get "sacked" a few times but the important thing is to get up off the turf to battle again.

3. "Be aware of 'yes' men. Generally, they are losers. Surround yourself with winners. Never forget -- people win." Leaders should encourage feedback from their subordinates. Nearly every successful leader has a story of when a subordinate pulled them aside to give them some constructive criticism.

2. When asked why he wasn't wearing his signature hound's tooth checkered hat at the Superdome for his frequent Sugar Bowl appearances, he responded "My Momma taught me not to wear a hat inside." The Air Force has very clear and understandable rules, regulations and technical orders. Follow them.

1. After being asked why no Alabama player (at the time) has ever won a Heisman Trophy, he responded, "At Alabama, our players don't win Heisman Trophies. Our teams win national championships." The Air Force refers to this as "Service before self."

Think about what influences your leadership. It is important to know this about yourself, as it forms one's beliefs, values, ethics and how you treat others.

Taking an inward look can help extend your outward influences with the goal of continually learning to be a better leader.
Roll Tide!