Last night I had the amazing privilege of having dinner with Lou Holtz (yes, the coach from Notre Dame).
Having no ability to control myself I commenced to ply him with questions about leadership and growing talent. I asked, “Given that in your career you’ve walked into at least 5 major teams – full of talent but not winning games – what would you say is the MOST important thing to look for first in creating a team of winners?”
Almost before I could finish the sentence, and well before he’d finished chewing what was in his mouth he loudly spit out, “PASSION!!” “I look for passionate people who want to take the whole team into a new place. Passion!”
He went on to describe how having passion was the absolute, fundamental, essential trait that he looked for from his first group and that as freshmen became juniors and seniors he said, “by then, they better ALL be leaders”.
His strategy was to assign a junior and a senior leader to each one of his new freshmen. Their job was to instill courage and passion.
Reminiscing, he cited a common thematic obstacle that arose in first year players – “quitting”.
“Quitting is a quick, long term solution to what is almost always a short term problem”; “The leader’s job is to tell them to stick it out”
Throughout the evening he kept saying simple axioms like:
“I’ve never told anyone what to do; just the way that I did it. So, I’d say, ‘when I did it this way it didn’t work. When I did it that way it worked. You do what you want to.’”
Coach Holtz never claimed great wisdom, extraordinary intellect, or anything special that makes him different than anyone else. Just that he’d survived to say “what worked”.
Had to pass this great experience on to you because of who you are and what I’m asking you to do with the mentoring program. What we are doing is simple – not brilliant. Working alongside others to embolden the good and subdue doubt and fear is an old strategy – very ancient . . . and wise.
Stay simple and survive, my friends.