Leadership Lessons from Al Davis

May 1, 2011 — Leave a comment
Al Davis

Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders

When Al Davis fired Tom Cable as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders at the end of the last season, I thought, “This guy has finally lost it.”

The Raiders had looked incredible during the second half of the season. They were playing like a team again. Things were looking great for this upcoming season.

Then Davis fired Cable.

Al Davis had a list of reasons. First, Cable allegedly assaulted former assistant coach Randy Hanson. Davis was also troubled by the allegations of Marie Lutz, a former girlfriend of Cable’s. Davis also talked about how he wasn’t happy with Oakland’s offensive output under Cable, and philosophical differences he had with Cable on run-blocking schemes.

But still… they were winning. Multiple games in a row, even!

Then then other day on the drive in to the office it hit me. There were some key leadership lessons to be learned from Al Davis’ decision everyone in leadership can benefit from:

1. You’re not going to agree with every decision a leader makes.

That’s good to remember, whether you’re a leader or a follower. The fact is that a follower, I won’t agree with every decision my leaders makes – even when they are a close friend. And as a leader, you can be sure that not every decision you make will be celebrated. In fact, it is likely that someone will disagree with every decision you make. That’s the burden of leadership (and it’s not for everyone).

2. A leader often makes decisions based on information you don’t have.

A leader is often privy to information that they cannot share with others, either legally, morally or because of good manners. I need to remember that I don’t have all the facts that went into the leaders decisions. Even if I did, I might disagree with the decision (see point #1). But that’s why they get to lead – to make the tough calls. If you are a leader, you will face times when you make a decision based in confidential information. Your decision will be right, but unpopular. In those times, remember that leaders are called to lead – to make decisions that can be unpopular (even when right). That’s the burden of leadership (and it’s not for everyone).

3. At the end of the day, it’s the leader’s duty to lead (and live with the results of their leadership).

I may not agree with Al Davis firing Tom Cable. I wish he hadn’t done it. But you know what? It’s not my decision to make. At the end of the day, the Oakland Raiders are Al Davis’ team, not mine. He paid or the privilege to make decision about his team (and he has to live with the results of whatever decision he makes). It is good for followers to remember that they get to go home at night and sleep easy. Leaders will spend many sleepless nights thinking about a decision that is before them or second-guessing a decision that they just made. Leaders are the heroes when they’re right and the goats when they’re wrong. In some arenas, making the right decision ensures you have a job and making the wrong one gets you sent packing. That’s the burden of leadership (and it’s not for everyone).

Pat Callahan

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I'm a picker. I'm a grinner. I'm a lover. And I'm a sinner. I make my music in the sun.

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