Don’t do this if you lose.


Last week, while on vacation, I had a chance to watch a lot of football. (American Football) That’s when I saw something that got my “leadership senses” tingling.  I was compelled to share my thoughts here.

As a lifetime leadership student, no sport captivates me like American football. It takes intelligence, determination, toughness and of course, leadership. That leadership comes in the form of Owners, GM’s, team members and coaches. One coach became the center of attention, for his “lack” of leadership this weekend.

Like a lot of people, I was taken back by the reaction of University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, after his team lost an important game. His opinion was that the officials made a bad call at the end of the game, that caused his team to lose. Naturally, he is going to be upset and he’s going to voice an opinion. He had an opportunity to show outstanding leadership, but instead, chose the low road. During the press conference, he really roasted the referees. He chose to blame the loss on bad officiating, rather than give the other team credit or acknowledge his own team’s shortcomings. I understand that it was “in the heat of the moment”, but as a leader of young men, he needs to do a better job.

Here’s why it’s important for leaders to resist whining and finger pointing.

1. Everybody’s watching. Watchful eyes always judge. A leader is judged by actions more than words. If a leader’s actions don’t line up with their words, they lose influence. People won’t believe in the vision and will lose respect for the leader.

2. Blaming others never fixes the problem. Put away the “blamethrower”. Blaming other people for your failures, gives away your ability to fix the issue. This is true in every case where people don’t take personal accountability. Approach issues with the mindset that YOU made a mistake. Then YOU can fix it.

3. The thing you’re complaining about is not the real issue. How many chances did Michigan have to win the game? Could they have prepared differently in practice? Football games are never decided by one play or one call. Much like business deals are not made in one meeting and goals are not reached by completing one task. These are all processes. By examining miscues throughout the game, they will gain more in the long run.

4. Nothing is gained by crying about past failures. Leaders do not cry about the past, they are thankful for it. True leaders look in the mirror and count past mistakes as learning opportunities. They embrace the failure and understand that errors are part of the process. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not stretching yourself. If you’re not stretching yourself, you can’t grow.

Here’s the hope.

Maybe Mr. Harbaugh will realize the error of his ways, apologize to his team and retain some level of respect. He is going to need it, if he wants to influence them towards another win.  Let’s hope the coach and the young men on this team learn “what not to do” from this episode. It may come in handy later in life.

How do you think the coach could’ve done a better job?

4 thoughts on “Don’t do this if you lose.

    1. The real question here is why are the refs untouchable? Everyone else is accountable for their performance. The players, the coaches, even the time keeps are held to a high standard for their performance. A team can overcome another great team, but they shouldn’t have to overcome bad call after bad call. The refs need to do their jobs and do it right. Some food for thought, one of the refs was disciplined for incompetence in 2002. It was Witicha State vs Purdue, like this game a series of awful calls led to Purdue’s loss. The big ten was right for doing that, and clearly, it should happen more often. Also, two other refs in the game are from Ohio! That’s an incredible conflict of interest! Harbough said he was definitely bitter about the officiating, and he had every right to be because they weren’t doing their job.


      1. Hello Michael. Thanks for stopping by. I think you are correct and have valid points. I just hope that in the future he can express that idea in such a way that we can see his point more than his anger. People get distracted when they see anger and aren’t able to focus on the real issues. If he wants to hold the refs accountable or change the rules, he will need to go about it differently.

        And he’s human just like all of us, I get it. Part of the reason press conferences get so heated is because they are right after the game. There is no “cool down” period. But he should understand that by now as a professional, it comes with the territory. He’s a full time leader with people watching him.

        Also, I hope he realizes that there were many other factors that led to the loss besides a couple of calls. Focusing on that which we can control will get us a lot further than worrying about things we can’t. Thanks for your insight!


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