Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Don't drop the ball!

The St. Louis Rams were a disappointing 10-6 in 2000, the year after they went 14-2 in the regular season and won the Super Bowl by a yard. They have also struggled as a team since their second Super Bowl in 2001 for a number of good reasons, and most, if not all, of them can be summed up as complacency. When a team becomes complacent, stagnation follows, and other teams or organizations can quickly take advantage.

Here are several key factors in how the Rams lost their season:
  1. Believed their own press. Never buy into favorable feedback. Let it buoy you, but never let it affect your decision-making process. The Rams knew they had a lightning fast receiver corps, and they allowed the hype surrounding "The Greatest Show on Turf" to cloud their discipline. Smart leaders know they are good, but they also know they are not that good. No one is as good or as bad as their best fan or worst critic would suggest.

  2. Assumed superiority (or inferiority). Never believe you are better than you really are: there is no room for ego. Conversely, there is also no room in leadership for low self-confidence. Never assume, and always challenge yourself: how can I do better? What can I do to improve?

  3. Lack of focus. This can also be lots of focus, or micromanagement. When there is either no clear objective, or focus is too tightly linked to a specific initiative, an organization can falter. The Rams stumbled by emphasizing the pass over the run; neglecting the running game cost them wins, and jeopardized momentum.

    Loss of focus is closely associated with a lack of discipline. When teams compromise on preparation, their execution suffers: targets and milestones slip, teams become reactive and blameshift. Because morale is closely associated with clarity, losing focus can be the deathknell of progress.

  4. Loss of confidence. This can also be lots of confidence, which leads to believing one's own press, arrogance, and lack of focus, causing a downard spiral. And a team without confidence is generally in a no-win situation. People sense fear -- and arrogance -- instictively, and are quick to withhold support, which kills teams.
For more on arrogance coupled with improper or intense focus, see the discussion on Key Man Syndrome.


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