January 26, 2018

Great Leaders Are Willing to Make Sudden Adjustments

Written by Wisdom Hunters

Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – January 26, 2018

By my friend, guest writer Charlie Paparelli (who explains this much better than I could!)

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  Hebrews 11:8

Three Monday nights ago, I saw one of the most incredible displays of leadership. Plus, it was the best college football game I’ve ever seen. There was tension right from the beginning.

In spite of the 13-0 score at the end of the first half, we all knew the second half was going to be amazing. And it was. Alabama came back from being shut out by Georgia in the first half to win the game in overtime.

But the real story is Alabama’s coach, Nick Saban, and how he changed the game completely. He put the game in the hands of a freshman quarterback who had played very few snaps throughout the 2017 season.


With this win, Saban tied the legendary college football coach Bear Bryant with six national championships. This is rare air. An incredible career accomplishment.

The interview with Nick Saban at the end of the game got me thinking about this man. What makes him a legend? What did he do that resulted in six national championships? What character traits does he demonstrate? What leadership methods does he employ?

I decided to focus on Saban’s results and work backwards. Here are my observations of what makes him such a great coach.

Love Your Market: Be a fan first

The interviewer for ESPN grabbed coach Saban right after the game ended. He was about to ask Saban his questions. Saban stopped him and said, “Let me ask you a question first. Was that a great game?”

I love this.

I never saw a coach do this to an interviewer. It showed me how much he enjoyed the game. He is as much a fan of college football as he is a coach. I am sure he carries this love of the game into his relationships with his players, coaches, and fan base.

It is infectious.

Said another way, Coach Saban not only loves what he does, but he loves where he does it. I believe this is so important with entrepreneurs. It is one thing to enjoy leading startups and building solutions, but it is the next level which makes for the big winners.

People like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs come to mind. They not only loved what they did, but they loved the tech and consumer electronics market. They loved its speed, its culture, the people, the competitors, and the buyers.

Recruit the Best Players: Then you can win championships

I heard a statistic this morning which blew my mind. Every player recruited by Coach Saban to Alabama since 2009 has been on a National Championship team.

How amazing is that?

Saban is always recruiting. I was told this is where he spends a large part of his day. And it makes sense to me.

I once asked a sales manager who worked for me, “What is your secret of success?”

He answered, “I am always recruiting.”

He then told me the story of the most successful regional sales manager he worked for at Wang Computers back in the 1980s. He said the guy interviewed a couple of new sales candidates every evening.

“As one of his salespeople, I knew I needed to perform at the highest level or I was gone. He was talking to some terrific candidates every night. In the end, I was a top performer surrounded by top performers in a region which was always number one in the company.”

Build Great Leaders: And you’ll be competing against them some day

This National Championship game pitted Coach Saban against the University of Georgia coach, Kirby Smart. Coach Smart used to be Nick Saban’s defensive coach at Alabama. In two years as Georgia’s head coach, he brought them to the National Championship game.

In fact, Nick Saban has a “coaching tree” which is enviable. The coaches he hired, trained, and worked with are leading many Division 1 college football programs. There are sixteen men in this tree. And Nick Saban is part of Bill Belichick’s “coaching tree.”

Saban invests in his coaches. He has a legacy of picking great leaders and developing them into leaders of their own teams who build their own legacies.

Great leaders build great leaders.

Have High Expectations: Success does not happen overnight

Saban began his career as Alabama’s head coach in 2007. For the first two years, Alabama was unrated in the preseason college coaches’ poll. Since 2009, Alabama has consistently been in the top 5 colleges in the nation.

Once he got the right people on board, he knew he would be a national contender. He knew it because he expected to be. In fact, he asks his recruits two questions.

  1. Do you want to play in a National Championship game?
  2. Do you want to play in the National Football League?

He sets high expectations. He wants to work with men who have high expectations.

Timing Is Everything: The last play determines it all

When asked about winning the game, Saban said, “Last year we lost on the last play of the game. This year we won on the last play of the game.”

He knows he is playing a game. It is a game played with people who are talented but not perfect. They make great plays, and they make mistakes.

Sometimes they miss the mark and disappoint, and sometimes they come through in the end and win. But he knows there is another team on the field. And his opposing coach is dealing with the same issues. It is all about people.

“Who knows how it will end?” Saban said. “We have to execute one play at a time. That’s all we can do. The rest comes down to who executes on the last play of the game.”

You can do all the right things. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way, but sometimes it does.

His players are just people.

He understands with all his effort, high expectations, and execution that these are young men who aren’t perfect.

Timing is everything.

Saban is a college football fan first and foremost. He wants to make college football great. To that end, he does his very best to recruit great players and coaches.

His focus is execution with high expectations.

From there, it is in God’s hand. He doesn’t hold it too close. He doesn’t own the outcome. But he is willing to bet the outcome on an untested freshman.


The post How to Become a Legend in Football (or Business) appeared first on Paparelli.

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19).



Heavenly Father, give me courage to initiate sudden adjustments if the situation calls for a radical change.


What area in my family, life or work may need for me to lead a bold change?

Related Reading

Ecclesiastes 3:1; Proverbs 22:3, 27:12; Acts 7:2-4

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Great leaders build great leaders. #boldleadership #wisdomhunters

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  1. Barbara says:

    Been an Alabama fan since the 60s. Love this story and so very true what makes a great leader. Love football and the crimson tide. Also love coach Saben

  2. Gwynne says:

    Dear Barbara, Thank you so much for reaching out to us. Your enthusiasm can be “felt” through your words! We are happy this devotional stroke a note with you and the fact that you are an Alabama fan helped you to enjoy it all that much more.
    We appreciate Boyd’s friend, Charlie Paparelli, for writing this and shining the light on the qualities of a great leader.
    We look forward to hearing from you again, Barbara.
    May God bless you,
    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
    Romans 15:13

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