Leadership Lessons from Chuck Noll

I read an article about Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler football coach Chuck Noll written by Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden. Noll passed away last week.

In the 1970’s, Noll’s Steelers won four Super Bowls. His four wins remains the best any NFL coach has achieved.

Noll never drew much attention to himself. His team was loaded with Hall of Fame players he drafted and coached.

Unlike these days where you can see NFL football 24/7 on television, Noll dodged the spotlight and did little to promote his success. His teams just won.

So, reading this retrospective by Layden yielded some insights that were interesting.

I think many of our leaders at PalletOne would identify with Noll’s style. He didn’t believe a great deal in fiery speeches. He thought that preparation and detail would determine who wins.

One of his players, Rocky Blier, wrote about Noll: “He wasn’t an orator or a motivator. Chuck would say, ‘It’s not my job to hold your hand. It’s my job to take motivated people and show them how to become better.’

He made the facts the boss. He strove to get his team to play reliably and consistently at each position. He was certain it was the path to success. His record proved him out.

Another Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman once asked Noll how he wanted to be remembered.

“A teacher, ” Noll said. “A person who could adapt to a world of constant change. A person who could adapt to a certain situation. But most of all a teacher. Put down that I was a teacher.”

Leading by teaching. Adapting to change. Those are  “happening to the world” traits.