In the US Navy Seal Teams, we have an axiom: There are no bad Teams just bad Leaders. Let’s talk about Leadership at its core and how we can apply it to this animal we call Football. Leaders have the ability to influence others to accomplish the task; the best leaders have the ability to inspire everyone around them to be better. A good leader can make a huge difference, and the right leader can make all the difference. That’s why recognizing and selecting the right leaders on your football team is extremely important. Often in football we look at the loudest player as the leader, but we really need to find the player who moves the team and often he is not the loudest. Never pick team captains by vote or coin toss; only by a deliberate and strategic process. As a leader with 30 years of experience, it is easy for me to identify leaders, and with a couple of hours of training; you too can also learn some of the skills that I employ.
Dynamic Leadership Discovery is a methodology for finding leaders in a group of people; it uses active problem solving to bring positive and negative leadership traits to the surface. Dynamic Leadership Discovery allows us to see what successful leadership looks like and develops the coaching skills needed to foster it. These skills include identifying positive and negative leadership cues, body language, and communication traits to draw a picture of an individual’s leadership potential. Having used and taught these techniques in a wide range of leadership situations the data is clear and it is conclusive. At the end of this article you have a better understanding of what a leader looks like and more importantly what traits a non-leader exhibits.
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To get the most out of this training, I recommend that you print this article. The learning will take place going back and forth between this article and three videos.
Great Leader: A person capable of leading the whole team. A problem solver, self-motivated, thrives on adversity, and selfless.
Good Leader: A person capable of leading a position group or a younger player that has Great Leader Potential, but is just not yet ready yet.
Player: A person who is better being lead, a follower, could be the star of the team and just not capable of leadership.
Bad Apple: A person who is an anti-leader. They have a huge influence on the team in a negative direction. Bad apples must be managed or cut, and are often the cause of bad team chemistry.
Group: Four to Six people being evaluated for potential leadership positions.
Station: Is a fifteen minute Dynamic Leadership Discovery problem. It is run by a Station Chief and normally an assistant. The Station Chief will see everyone doing his drill in the same environment, thus having a true understanding of what it takes do well.
Group Leader: Is responsible for moving and evaluating the Group from station to station. He starts his evaluation the minute he picks the Group up for the first Station. He produces a new evaluation at each station for his Group. He is in the unique position to evaluate the Group’s performance and interactions across multiple stations.
Let’s look at a case study from one of my coaching experiences. When stepping into a new organization, I always use Dynamic Leadership Discovery to get a baseline for my leadership. On a team of eighty-five, there are only two to four Great Leaders, ten Good Leaders, and two Bad Apples. This leaves us with roughly sixty-eight Players.
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After an afternoon of testing, Chaz was identified as Great Leader, and Trent, a clear Bad Apple. To start morning workouts we split the leadership across eight teams with two leaders per team. Due to staff misunderstandings of leadership, Trent was made a team captain of the Iguana’s. Being in charge of a team during morning workouts is both a leadership incubator and an opportunity to change the culture of the team. Chaz’s team, the Destroyers, were out in front by a huge margin after eight morning workouts. It was not a surprise to me that Trent’s Iguanas were dead last, and by a mile. Going back to the notion there are no bad teams just bad leaders, we took Chaz and put him in-charge of the Iguanas. The change was instant and in the next workout the Iguanas finished 2nd. It should be noted that the Destroyers did not drop off the chart without Chaz because Great Leaders leave teams still able to perform. You could see a change in the Iguanas and even in Trent. Seven workouts later, the Iguanas went from “worst to first” in the final points tally. What had changed, only the leadership. Let’s dive into the Dynamic Leadership Discovery drills that painted the picture of Chaz as a Great Leader and Trent as a Bad Apple.
World Class Leadership Example: Balls on a Ledge.
Let’s take a look at a super high performing team with four Great Leaders and one Good Leader. This team of leadership superstars achieved a thirty-seven second score when the average team was four minutes and fifty seconds. There is no sound in this video, but let’s watch the unique body language of this team. I’m going to reference times in the video so we can identify dynamic leadership traits. The average human has over 900,000 non-verbal body language communication signals, whereas that same individual only uses 200-400 words a day. During the Dynamic Leadership Discovery problem, we observe the Group the entire time, whether at work or not. We watch and evaluate their body language just as much as we listen to what they say and how they impact the Group.
0:08: Observe how the four shorter members in the front are actively listening while trying to solve the problem as it is being explained to them. This is the first clue that the four shorter members are Great Leaders and the taller one is a Good Leader, yes that quickly.
0:19: The Group is expressing their ideas with freedom and confidence. In this process of identifying leaders we are looking for hints of the opposite behavior, hunched shoulders and no confidences as much as the positive. Both the negative and the positive tell the story.
0:31: The execution phase starts and they have already made preparations so that at the word go, action takes place. This is an important aspect because leaders see problems and take action to ensure those problems do not come into existence.
0:57: This is the only negative thing in this problem. Instead of using their groupmate they just threw the ball up and cost themselves two extra attempts.
1:02: A huge aspect of leadership is understanding when you are not getting it done and getting help. In this case, the shirtless Group member has had two attempts with two misses, but decided to step back to allow the other member a shot. Although it is his idea to put the balls in the shirt, he is humble enough to let another member accomplish the mission for the team’s success.
1:07: The celebration is energetic and happy putting real meaning to the mission. That’s what leaders do; they take a problem and make it the most important thing in the world at that moment.
1:25: The Group figures out within seconds how to get the balls down by using a high jump pole.
This was not a case of luck, this group set the record at the second Station and had the most unique answer for the third. The time to solve the problem is an example of the Group’s leadership ability and the individual leadership capacity within the Group; however the problem is just a way to force the members to interact. From past experiences, if a Group fails to complete a mission there is a good chance they have no leaders. The evaluation of leadership potential is compiled at the end with a discussion between the Group Leader, Station Chiefs, and other evaluators.
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Poor Leadership Example: Chairs in a Room
In the next clip we will see a Group with just one potential Good Leader and you will see the difference in body language and execution. First rule of Dynamic Leadership Discovery, if you don’t see a clear cut leader in the Group then there is not a leader. Let’s identify the Group members:
To start the problem, there is a healthy conversation about a plan, but no clear cut plan or clear cut leader.
1:26: Black Sleeves gives off a very bad body language signal with his left arm, head down, and pursed mouth. He is unconfident in his solutions, and does not handle adversity well. This Group has a bunch of thinkers in it that lack the ability to execute the action necessary to influence others.
2:05: Grey Shirt has an idea that there is a white board behind the film screen. This is a Great Leadership trait; he is still actively working to solve the problem and finding creative solutions. Unfortunately this is the only thing he does the whole day.
2:11: Black Sleeves takes the board idea and runs with it, working off a better idea, and making it your own shows flexibility.
2:30: The first time Two Wristbands speaks, not a negative thing but it is concerning.
2:37: Grey Beard starts to chew his fingernails, clear sign that he is not sure about the plan, and is nervous about his role in the plan. This is a clear sign that he is Player; a leader would voice his concern and work to fix the problem.
3:45: After a brief Group discussion it is clear this is a low preforming Group with little leadership.
4:20: After writing the chair placement on the board, there is no plan review or Group talk about next steps. All signs again point to the fact that this Group does not have a Good Leader in it.
5:35: Grey Shirt is providing a little leadership during execution, but the Group as a whole lacks energy. A Great Leader at a minimum would be hustling, causing those around him to have a sense of urgency. Once again, this Group lacks a leader during execution.
8:47: Grey Shirt and Grey Beard standing around watching the action: a negative leadership trait. Leaders are involved in the solution so they can try to fix problems or make it run better.
9:07: Black Sleeves Does a chair review. Major problem his is the only one concerned about the final chair alignment. Red Hair shows a little bit but it is not real.
9:25: Black Sleeves leaves the diagram of the room on the white board and lowers the film screen. At the conclusion, ask him, “why?” If he did it to help the next Group that is a huge positive.
Black Sleeves is the only one in this Group with any potential leadership, he is still a Player. The rest of the people in this Group are Players and should not be put into a leadership position.
Your Leadership Example to Grade: Chairs in a Room.
Now, let’s put you to the test. Watch the following clip and find the members with the highest leadership capacity; note the time on the film that you make your observations. At the end of your evaluation, rank the Group members 1 to 5, and assign them either: Great, Good, Player, or Bad Apple. Let’s identify the Group members:
Evaluation: Chairs in a Room.
Let’s get started with the evaluation:
0:13: Black Shirt and Grey Yellow are actively listening and engaged. Teal Shirt has his hands behind his back and is kind of listening, but not fully engaged.
0:27: Green Shirt and Grey Shirt come out of the back ground and engage the problem.
0:41: With a little head nod and a glance to the rear, Teal Shirt becomes disengaged with the problem.
0:46: Teal Shirt and Grey Yellow move to the front and look into the room to get a better idea of the task, soon joined by Black Shirt.
1:06: Black Shirts starts communicating his plan.
1:23: Good Group communication with an open discussion of the plan and how to execute it.
1:40: Black Shirt is in the room clearly leading the group. He gives a clear explanation of his plan. With grace he explains each member’s job. He also is able to answer a question from the Group, which means he has a fully developed plan and a very clear understanding of how to accomplish the mission.
2:04: You cannot see this on the film. Teal Shirt takes out his phone and takes a picture of the room. Taking a picture of the room is a huge plus because it shows his ability to bring all his resources to bear on the problem. Watch 3:04 mark for the reveal.
2:31: Grey Shirt exits the room disengages from the problem, and is content with the plan laid out by the others.
3:00: Grey Shirt speaks up about the pace of the problem.
3:04: Teal Shirt takes out his phone and tells the Group he took a picture of the room.
4:41: Green Shirt doing a great job of leading and communicating during the execution.
5:54: Black Shirt tells Green Shirt to come all the way into the room. Black Shirt has full situational awareness of his plan and the execution, Great Leader trait.
7:18: Teal Shirt using the pictures on his phone to take charge of getting the chairs back into the correct location.
7:42: Completion of the mission is met with joy and fist pumps.
8:04: Black Shirt goes and grabs the water bottle, handing it to a groupmate first. Huge leadership point in that he is thinking about his team before himself. He is a Great Leader, and it showed right here.
9:10: When informed that they missed a chair behind the door the whole Group expressed disappointment. This is very good thing because it shows they cared about doing a good job and winning.
Overall, this Group showed great leadership skills that valued working together. At this Station, there were two Great Leaders with Black shirt being the best, and Grey Yellow a close second. Good Leaders were both Teal Shirt (3rd) and Green Shirt (4th). Finally, Grey Shirt (5th) comes in as Player, but had some leadership abilities that can be developed. How well did you do reading the signals that the Group and its members were giving you?
Like any other coaching skill, once you know what to look for you will start seeing the indicators everywhere; in meetings, lifting sessions, stretching, other practice sessions, and anytime you see people interacting toward a common goal. Developing the ability to spot, assess, and cultivate the best leaders will pay huge dividends for your team. Leadership is the key to championship teams and always remember, “It takes a shooter to lead a shooter.”
Jake Zweig is entering his second season as a special teams analyst at the University of Illinois. In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Zweig was a defensive line coach at the University of Findlay. Zweig came to the Oilers after serving as the special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach at the University of Incarnate Word from 2012-14. Before that Zweig had a number of stops. In 2011, Zweig was with Bryant University and was also selected for the NFL’s Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship with the Oakland Raiders. He was also a defensive line/special teams coach at the University of New Hampshire (2009-10), a special teams/defensive line/wide receivers coach at Catholic University of America (2006-07) and a wide receivers coach at the University of Maryland (2005-06). Zweig has also developed a leadership program comprised of leadership skills training, problem solving scenarios and rigorous team-bonding workouts. He has employed his leadership program at Ohio University and the University of New Hampshire. Zweig graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1995 as an officer. He served as a surface warfare officer for two years onboard the U.S.S. Merrimack before reporting for Navy SEAL training at Basic Underwater Demolition School. SEAL training is the most grueling and demanding physical and mental regimen in the world and Zweig not only excelled at the challenge, but mentored the other trainees through the program and was named the SEAL class leader. Following his SEAL training, Zweig reported to SEAL Team 8 in Little Creek, Va. and attained the rank of lieutenant. Zweig has earned a master’s of business administration from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s of science degree in computer science from the U.S. Naval Academy.
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