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25 January 2015

What Leaders Can Learn From the Seahawks


You may know this already – I’m a huge Seahawks fan. Not a fair weather fan — the weather is rarely fair in Seattle, where I lived for 10 years — but a longtime, died in wool, through-thick-and-thin fan. It began for me in 1983 when they drafted Curt Warner out of Penn State. (No, not the grocery-bagging, future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner – though I like him a lot, too.) So I’ve stood by my team through a lot of really bad seasons.

Now, with the Seahawks on the threshold of their second Super Bowl in a row, I thought I’d share a few insights we as leaders can learn from them. (No, I’m not just trying to justify my love for the game or the team; I’m really struck by the applicability of some of these ideas.)

1) If you don’t have anything to say – don’t. This might make some people uncomfortable – but sometimes it’s the best response. (Marshawn Lynch has mastered the one-word, or one-phrase media response because he just doesn’t have anything he wants to share.) For those of us who tend to have a lot to say, we might learn from Lynch, too. I recently saw a sign that said, “Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.” I’m still working on this one.

2) Don’t underestimate the power of your fans. If your organization has a strong group of faithful supporters, name them (“12th Man”); give them a jersey, bring them onto your team and give them something to do. Fans love to feel like they’re making a difference.

3) You are not limited by other people’s understanding of you. The Northwest is often ignored. Yes, Seattle is in the lower 48, even though former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said a few years ago that no one knew who they were because, “they play in South Alaska.” But before their first Super Bowl victory a year ago, the news media often minimized coverage for the Seahawks. If you’ve gone through a season where you felt you were undervalued – or ignored – stay your course. Serve consistently, faithfully. Establish goals, attainable and measurable ones, then determine the processes and actions required to accomplish them. Invest yourself in your team. Management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” The Seahawks have built such a tight bond within the team, they claim that love for one another drives them. Yes, that’s right. Love. Drives football players to always give their best, sacrifice themselves for the guy next to them. Some players are now saying “L.O.B” – originally the abbreviation of their hard-hitting secondary’s nickname, “Legion of Boom” – now stands for “Love Our Brother.” What would it look like if your team exhibited, felt and lived in this kind of love for one another?

4) Do what you do well. The Seahawks know their strategy, their identity. They also know their strengths and concentrate on them. In a league that has seen passing increase significantly over the last several years, Seattle remains one of only two teams to run the ball more than 50 percent of the time. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. They know who they are; they’ve established their plan, and they’re sticking to it. It seems to be working. The same goes for you – be the best version of you, individually and as a team. Spend more time strengthening your strengths than trying to compensate for your weaknesses.

5) Learn your players’ stories. I realize not all Seahawks players exemplify my values and lifestyle all the time, but each one is still a person with a story, a life, a heart. There are reasons for their actions, some of them only known by God. It helps to understand what makes your teammates tick, so get to know them.

6) Finally, “Go, ‘Hawks!” I’d love to see my team win a second Super Bowl championship in a row.

Photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks (C) 2015 Seattle Seahawks