Principles for success from the front line

After writing the post about the characteristics of a good team captain, I recalled something worthwhile on the subject of leadership. It’s applicable equally to captains and coaches, so I thought I’d share it here.

One of the great cinematic works of recent years is the HBO series Band of Brothers. If you haven’t seen this World War II story, and can deal with a fair bit of graphic war oriented footage, I strongly encourage you to watch the series. It is based on a book of the same name which documents the history of a real unit of US paratroopers – Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment – from their initial training through to the end of the war. The series includes interview footage of the surviving members of Easy Company and generally provides a good soldier’s perspective.

One of the officers for Easy Company is Dick Winters, who ends the war as a Major. He authored his own book titled Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. In it he not only tells the story from his own perspective, which is a little different (though not dramatically so, just more a matter of perspective), but he also shares a number of his insights into leadership. At the end of the book there’s a page titled Leadership at the Point of the Bayonet where Winters shares his principles for leaders. I think they are well worth reviewing for volleyball coaches and are something which can help in the development of good team captains.

Ten Principles for Success
  1. Strive to be a leader of character, competence, and courage.
  2. Lead from the front. Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.
  3. Stay in top physical shape – physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
  4. Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
  5. Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their job. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination and creativity.
  6. Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
  7. Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
  8. Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
  9. True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. They key to a successful leader is to earn respect – not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
  10. Hang Tough! – Never, ever, give up.

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John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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