Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Are you a Leadership Coach or a Commentator?

Being the passive Dallas Cowboys fan that I am, I have gotten frustrated when they blow a lead or fail to make the playoffs for the third year in a row.  What's worse is that it has been extremely frustrating to not see them in the Super Bowl since Jimmy Johnson set Barry Switzer up for success.  Needless to say, I have a lot of suggestions for Jerry Jones.  But hey, who doesn't.  Go to your Twitter feed or Facebook and you will find 1 million commentators using their infinite wisdom gained from years of yelling at the TV from their Lazy-Boy recliner.  And if that's not good enough, turn on the radio, ESPN, or NFL channel, and talking heads with lots more wisdom than you or me are weighing in on why the Cowboys just can't get it done.

Sure, it's real easy to pick apart Tony Romo's decisions in slow motion after we have had time to study the defense and their blitz package frame by frame.  After we have had 5 minutes to dissect 2 seconds frozen in time, it's real easy to blame Tony for not picking up that critical first down with no time left on the clock.  It's easy because anyone can pick apart history after it has already happened.  Commentators get paid tons of money to criticize plays that coaches (who get paid tons more money) design on the fly in the heat of battle.  The point is this.  Anyone can be a commentator and criticize their team, but only a select few are capable of coaching their team to victory.

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Add your Leadership to this Analogy

There are 2 types of leaders:  coaches and commentators.  Coaches lead their players to victory, and commentators tell others why the players won the game or screwed it up.  Here are just a few things that makes your leadership more like a coach or a commentator.


  • Prepare their players to be victorious.
  • Praise the team for the win.
  • Take the blame for the loss.
  • Capitalize on mistakes as learning opportunities for growth.
  • Use performance data to find strengths in individual players to improve the team as a whole.
  • Use results to prepare for the next opponent.
  • Have meaningful relationships with their players.


  • Question players why the game was won or lost.
  • Praise the team for the win.
  • Blame the team for the loss.
  • Magnify mistakes as reasons for failure.
  • Use performance data to praise winners and criticize losers.
  • Review results to promote winners and vilify losers.
  • Have superficial relationships with players from a distance.
Coaches are proactive.  They move their teams forward, and they do that by building strong relationships bound by strong structures for working together. Commentators don't build anything, and they criticize everything.  In short, leaders consciously choose to be proactive or reactive.  They choose to build for the future or criticize the present.  As leaders, we have a choice.  We can spend our time coaching our organizations for the future or criticizing them for the current place that they are.  

I don't know about you, but I choose to coach for the future.  I can't do anything about the results of the past.  I can't bring back the glory days, but I can make new glory days.  I can criticize the Dallas Cowboys all I want to, but I, as a commentator, have no power.  Only Jerry Jones and the Cowboys organization have the power to make change.  (That's a suggestion, Jerry!) The same goes for leadership. You can criticize your organization all you want to, but the only person that can improve the organization is you, the leader.  If you're the leader, move from the reactive mode of commentating and into the proactive mode of coaching.  If you're not the leader, quit commentating on the leader's performance and start helping the leader by being proactive.  If you can stay away from commentating and commit to coaching, you may just find that your efforts will take your team back to the Super Bowl.

The choice is yours...


  1. Leaders learn early on that the best way to gain support and trust from their employees is to explain all things in their entirety. Once people understand why something is important or necessary, they generally rally to the call of that which needs to be done or addressed.

    Leadership coach

    1. Support and trust is never gained from commentating. It can only be gained when leaders coach followers through difficulties. Thank you for your comments. Have a great one.


  2. This is excellent, John. Great perspective and a wonderful reminder for all leaders. Anyone can complain or find fault in what happened in the past...true leaders find the gold in that failure and set their teams up for the future. Really enjoyed reading this...well done.

    1. Joe, thanks for your feedback. I really value your feedback. I hope you have a great day and a powerful 2014.


  3. Executive Coaching and Mentoring can develop better leaders at all levels . While mentoring is more prescriptive , Coaching is more evocative and enduring .
    Professional Coach in Georgia

  4. Leadership is nothing but it is the practice. Any one can't be a good leader in just few days, for that they have to be strong enough to handle their own attention first. They have have to spend at least 50% of their time over leading themselves.
    Coaching for excellence

  5. Great post. I run executive coaching programs in Rhode Island and throughout New England. I'd like to add that if you're not a leadership coach and are interested in learning more about effective communications for executives please check out our website. We have some wonderful free resources available for all those interested in the topic.

  6. Thanks for this post!!! This is among such a lot vital info for me. I think, Executive Coaching process is intended to help you comprehend leadership and authoritative motion.
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