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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

What Leaders Can Learn from Brett Favre About Winning Over a Skeptical Team


In the category of "Man, I wish I'd written that," my blogging friend Mike Figliuolo had a great post last week called "Ten Reasons Your Team Hates You." It was a brilliant piece with so true they might hurt items such as you don't fight for them, you micromanage, you're a suck up and you're above getting your hands dirty. It's gotten a lot of well deserved attention, is definitely worth a read and is a post you'll likely want to share with others.

So, it was with Mike's post in the back of my mind that I watched Brett Favre lead the Vikings this week to a 30 - 23 win over his old team, the Packers, on Monday Night Football. If you follow football at all, you understand why I'm making the connection between Mike's "Why Your Team Hates You" post and Favre. Even non-sports fans are likely aware and completely sick of Favre's multi-year act of will he retire or not retire, who will he play for, when will he play, etc., etc., etc. He's done about as much as he possibly can to make his colleagues skeptical of his motives and intent. And yet, the Vikings at 4 and 0 so far this season seem to be gelling around him.

If you take the publicity, the uniforms and the bone crunching hits out of the equation, Favre appears to be successfully doing what you'll likely have to do at least once in your career - stepping in to lead a team that for whatever reason is skeptical of your motives and has their doubts about whether or not you're the right leader. In spite of all the drama baggage he carries with him, Favre is winning the Vikings over. How is doing it? Here are a few things he's doing that I think apply to leaders in fields other than football:

Win: Winning games - whatever that looks like in your context - can solve a lot of problems. Favre brings the skills and the experience of a winner to the Vikings. He's getting it done. It's a lot easier for a leader to win the team over win he or she brings the talent and experience needed to help them win.

Spread It Around: Prior to his Monday night win, Favre had changed his game plan of firing off passes to one that got a lot of other players involved in the game. The Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, has been a key part of their offense this year. When a leader sets things up so everyone gets to contribute at the full extent of their talent, there's a much better chance of full engagement from the team.

Throw Some Blocks: On a fairly regular basis, you can see Favre throwing a block downfield to help clear a path for one of his runners. This is his way of counteracting Mike Figliuolo's point about not getting your hands dirty. By throwing a block, Favre is stepping out of his role to help make his team successful. Leaders in every field need to look for and act on their own opportunities to "throw a block" for their team.

Keep It Light: Say what you will about Favre, when he's on the field he looks like he's a lot of fun to play with. He jokes, he jumps around, he bumps his teammates in celebration, he gives noogies. I'm not suggesting that you give noogies to your teammates, but there are ways to keep it light. Look for them. (Just don't go over the line. Michael on The Office offers weekly examples of what over the line looks like.)

Passion: If you're still playing in the NFL at almost 40 years old, it's safe to say that you have a fair amount of passion for the game. Favre clearly does. The presence of the leader influences the presence of the team. Favre's passion is infecting the Vikings in a positive way. Showing your commitment and passion through your words and action is a great way to win over your team. Watch out though. If passion is all you bring to the table, you're likely to lose them. Remember the first Favre lesson. It helps to win.

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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