- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Leadership Lessons from the Gridiron

By Evan Offstein, Contributing Editor

Article Sponsored by: Vinnell Arabia

Football season is upon us. While a cause for celebration for many and a uniquely American harbinger of the fall, there is much we can learn from the game - lessons that can shape our career.

Consider Dennis Erickson for example. He offers us a glimpse of the power of the network. In a well travelled career, Erickson has coached at such collegiate venues as Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Miami, Oregon State, and Arizona State. His head coaching experience also includes the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.

Whether he was fired or left of his own accord, one thing served Erickson better than almost any coach in gridiron history - his network. There is little doubt that he was able to advance, survive, or transfer because he had contacts within his network. Indeed, he is one of the few coaches who has deep networks in both the collegiate and NFL ranks.

As with Erickson, there are a couple of immediate benefits to a network. Notably, those within the network often get the best information sooner. In a knowledge-based environment and economy, information speed and quality are of paramount importance.

Going deeper, there are two types of substantial networks - internal and external. Internal networks exist within your current organization. They are important for informational and promotional reasons. As long as you are part of the organization, internal networks will provide direct and immediate benefits. Dialing in and being active in these networks will often lead to training and promotion opportunities. However, where Erickson excelled is investing in external networks. External network power extends beyond the organization to reach additional industries or sectors.

The lesson is straightforward - invest in and contribute to networks. Join networks within and outside your organization. Also, do not overlook trade or industry conferences. They are a particularly potent source of both knowledge and contacts for your external power base.

Throughout the fall, I will be using the game of football to offer lessons and principles that we can apply to our own situation and organization - see you at the tailgate!

Dr. Offstein is the author of "Stand Your Ground: Building Honorable Leaders the West Point Way" and "Gridiron Leadership" (with Morwick and Griffith). "Gridiron Leadership" was released in August 2009 and has received endorsements from Gen. Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ken Preston. In addition, Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers wrote the foreword to "Gridiron Leadership."


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