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Leadership Lessons from the NFL

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano


There are countless analogies to be made between the world of football and the corporate world: the importance of practice, play-calling, and execution all traverse both spheres.

Furthermore, some of the best leadership lessons and examples can be found from studying professional sports. Damian Vaughn is a retired NFL tight end who recently wrote a piece for Fast Company on the three biggest lessons football taught him about leadership. The lessons are so good, we thought we’d reiterate them here!


  1. Lead with Values and a Culture of Accountability: Here, Vaughn talks about what we all know to be true: that teamwork and camaraderie are crucial for any team or organization to excel. The best way to work on creating community within a team? Uniting around a common purpose and values. As Vaughn writes, “When a team is in alignment, they create a culture of inclusion, empowerment, and accountability.”

  2. Look for Clutch Moments: While the fundamental skills are necessary for any team or company to compete, the “clutch moments” are usually what define whether a team wins or loses. In football, these moments can come in the form of turnovers, critical plays, injuries, or in the final moments of a Hail Mary’s. In business, these moments often arise during times of change, opportunities for innovation, or any times of raised stakes. As Vaughn says, “Being ready for those times takes situational awareness, resilience, optimism, and courage—all skills and mindsets that you can develop through greater learning, practice, and coaching.”

  3. Know Your People: Finally, both coaches and leaders in the office must know their people – know their skills and their shortcomings, as well as their goals and their dreams. “Ultimately, effective leadership requires you to understand human behavior and to create an environment that allows (and inspires) your team to perform at the highest level.”

Now, enjoy your Super Bowl Weekend, and keep these tenants in mind when you return to the office on Monday!

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