As those who’ve read this blog for any period of time can attest, I often find myself reflecting on what it means to be a leader. It seems that each new project and each new responsibility helps give me new perspective on the subject.

This week I found myself thinking about football positions.

Here it goes:

I’ve always found it very natural to be the quarterback. Personally leading projects is something that I’ve done since college (whether in the classroom or on the athletic field). I’ve always been comfortable standing at the line of scrimmage holding the ball in my hands. When playing the role of the quarterback, I’m in total control.

This week I had a realization:

Sometimes organizational leaders don’t get to be the quarterback. In fact, they often don’t even get to be on the field. They need to be the coach, standing on the sidelines. The coach’s job is to set the high level direction for the team, assign players to positions, call the plays, and give feedback along the way. The coach scores no touchdowns and throws no passes, yet they are ultimately accountable for wins and losses.

Unlike football coaches, occasionally these types of leaders do get to run on the field, but they don’t get to touch the ball. Their only acceptable role on the field is that of lead blocker – putting their shoulder into an oncoming 250lb line backer and otherwise clearing obstacles for those who are running the play.

The funny thing about this type of leader is that they don’t usually get the same level of glory as the quarterback.

When playing the role of the coach, the leader gets 100% of the pressure and no ability to actually do the work themself.

When the leader is playing the lead blocker they get 100% of the pain and only a very small portion of the glory.

These types of leaders do get some recognition, but if you’re the coach or the lead blocker, don’t count on being the Super Bowl MVP.  The MVP is almost always the quarterback or the running back.

Sometimes as a leader, you may find yourself running into the huddle and trying to do the quarterbacks job – but the most important part of being a leader is discipline.

Rather than diving in and grabbing the football – just call the plays and go knock over some defenders. If you still have time left over, go develop another star quarterback.

Being the Coach and the Lead Blocker
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