Free «The Leadership of Bill Belichick» Essay

The Leadership of Bill Belichick

Patriots Reign: Bill Belichick, the coaches, and the players who built a champion tells the story of how the New England Patriots franchise established itself as a dynasty from the 2001 football season. The book also explores Belichick’s professional and personal background before joining the Patriots in 2000. Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL alongside Jimmie Johnson and Vince Lombardi. Belichick managed to create greatness out a team that had the worst records in the NFL at the time he joined the organization (Holley, 2004). During his watch, the Patriots drafted and established Tom Brady into one of the best, efficient and accomplished quarterbacks of his generation. Belichick also managed to establish a strong defense with the likes of Asante Samuel and Teddy Bruschi. The combination of a great defense and an unstoppable quarterback created a team that made history by winning three Super bowls in four years. The team also recorded an undefeated regular season in 2007 and went down in history as the best team of the last decade. All these achievements by the organization has been attributed mainly to one big factor: the leadership of Bill Belichick. Belichick managed to achieve all these successes by exercising great leadership style, qualities and management on and off the field.

Holley (2004) observes that Bill Belichick displays pure ingenuity in coaching and has the ability to make smart rooster shifts. Belichick has an uncanny knack for locating the good players and molding them into the right fit for the organization. Belichick has always been a keen judge of talent and with the help of his key deputies, has been able to select low profile players who fit the system, structure and overall philosophy of the Patriots. Belichick and his scouts have found players with the character to execute their roles on the team with a winning attitude. According to Holley (2004), the Patriot’s introduction as a team as opposed to the traditional individual introductions before Super bowl XXXVI was not a publicity stunt- it was a clear message to the public that the team is going to stick together: play together, win together lose together.

The Patriots were able to record all back-to-back Super bowl victories through establishing a well-organized team from top to bottom. And as Holley (2004) explains, it all centers around Belichick, who has been responsible for setting the goals and responsibilities of all the parts of the franchise and then, working together as a team towards achieving those goals, which of course delivers championships. Holley adds that it all depends on team work which Belichick greatly emphasizes, from the players, coaches, trainers, scouts, administrative staff and of course, the owner.

Chelladurai (2006) asserts that a form of autocratic behavior that displays independence in making decision and stresses personal authority is an important element in leadership, especially a large sports organization. Belichick’s official capacity is as a head football coach, but his responsibilities are much more similar to a manager. While leadership is a multifaceted and complex construct identified by an individual’s theoretical position, virtually all characterizations of leadership share the view that it involves a process of influence. Belichick’s authority in the Patriot’s organization is unmatched by any other NFL franchise in the league (Holley, 2004). It is important to note the impact great support from the top authority has on the overall success of an organization. Belichick credits Robert Kraft with granting him authority to run football related operations as he deems fit, and the coach responds by keeping communication channels open and Kraft completely in the loop, something Belichick’s predecessor, Bill Parcels,  refused to establish. Belichick’s authority makes him the General Manager of the organization, his influence felt in all parts of the organization.

Chelladurai, (2006) defines leadership as a unique combination of personal qualities that enables others to achieve individual and collective goals. Like Belichick Chelladurai believes that these qualities’ basis is on the behavior and character of a person. The author asserts the different element that makes a good leader is character. One of the most important attributes that Belichick considers vital in the development of player is individual character (Holley, 2004). Pierce and Newstrom (2009), observe that On the Meaning of Leadership, the Author highlights the new emerging leadership roles that help people attain self-leadership. According to Pierce and Newstrom, leadership is transformed from the “follow me” to focusing on “leading others to lead themselves.”

Many eyebrows rose when the New England patriots used their second round pick and selected safety Tavon Wilson. A few minutes after the team drafted Jake Bequette, they informed the public that their pick was going to be a co-captain in defense. Additionally, Donta Hightower was too valuable to Belichick that he opted to move the linebacker up from 31 to 25 in order to get him. What all these players have in common is that they were all captains of their college defense teams. Leadership has always been an important factor for Belichick in selecting his players. According to Holley (2004), Belichick believes leadership, character, a person’s relationship with his teammates, coaches and the respect that comes with this responsibility is somehow interrelated. Belichick’s ability to identify these character traits in players has enabled him to build a team of leaders. Identifying character traits in individuals has always been an important element in leadership. He also values young players who exposed to leadership roles at a young age. Jarod Mayo is an obvious example in supporting this case. The player was captain of the team’s defense in 2010, just three years after his NFL debut.

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Chelladurai (2006) notes that people who implement organizational procedures and policies help organizations achieve its goals. He asserts that management of human resources is the most critical part of achieving these goals. Since sports and recreation organizations are primarily concerned production of services from its players, it is important to adopt proper management and leadership qualities in achieving success. It is no surprise that the field of human resource management has also been incorporated in the locker room of the franchises.

Chelladurai (2006) devised several factors in the relationship between the coach and an athlete.  Chelladurai believes that the strenuous training and instruction should be included to improve athlete’s performance, techniques, skills and tactics; structuring and coordinating the players and staff’s activities; and clarifying the relationship among staff. Although, Belichick changed the coaching style of the Patriots back in 2000, his methods are not are different from any other football team. However, he does run a tight ship in maintaining discipline among his players (Holley, 2004). Additionally, Chelladurai (2006) advocates incorporation of democracy in the locker room. The coach should allow greater player participation in making decisions pertaining to collective goals, game strategies and practice methods. Belichick has always incorporated his quarterback’s input in designing plays before games as opposed to designing plays with the coaching staff.   

According to Chelladurai (2006), reinforcing a positive feedback in players helps to motivate athletes. The coach should always reinforce an athlete’s confidence by identifying and rewarding good performances (Chelladurai, 2006). One of the principles within the Patriots organization has always been: we win as a team and lose as a team (Holley, 2004). Belichick is not known to advocate and praise individual performances, but has attributed individual performances as the team’s effort or failure. However, has also been known as a no excuses king of guy and as a result, shouldered most of the responsibility for the team’s disappointing results. Holley quotes the coach saying,” let’s put it this way: when a person is the coach, he is the head coach twenty four hourrs a day, seven day a week. No matter the circumstances and situations, it is all under the coach’s watch, and to some degree it is his problem and no one else’s (Holley, 2004). Upon winning the Super bowl, Belichick declared that was the reason his family got into the sport to begin with. He acknowledges the special franchise they have built in New England and attributed the success to the efforts of the players and the coaching staff.   

Belichick has extraordinarily had focus. His approach to the game is all business and no nonsense. The coach’s all business approach is evident in the way his players act of the field of play. The Patriots do not taunt opponents neither do they gloat. The organization talk about the things he does—emphasizing on details, cutting down on mistakes, executing the game strategies, and taking one step at a time. It sounds lackluster, but as Chelladurai (2006), observes, all these elements makes sense in sports management as they serve to make the team even better.  

A great leader is one who is not afraid to make the tough calls. In 2001, he dropped the reliable and effective Drew Bledsoe and put his faith in Tom Brady, a completely unknown and untested quarterback. It helped that the decision did not backfire. Had it not worked out, Belichick’s future might be a completely different one. At the time, his decisions were wildly risky and unpopular. However, he is not a man to be deterred or worried by the opinions of other people. Additionally, the defining moment in Belichick’s Patriot career came when he refused to meet the salary demands of popular safety Lawyer Milloy in the 2004 season and allowed the player to join the Buffalo Bills. This decision at the time was largely unpopular with the players and the fans since he was a fan favorite. To make Belichick’s position even harder, the Patriots succumbed to a 31-0 defeat to the Bills in the opening game of the regular season. Holley (2004) notes that Belichick could have lost the team, instead, managed to motivate the team and rally them back.

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Belichick’s great record, like any great leader, is not achieved without any hurdles along the way. However, learning from one’s mistakes is a quality managed by few individuals. The Patriots represented Belichick’s second spell as a head coach. In the 1990s he endured a horrid five year career as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The team’s performance was a complete shame and Belichick became the media scapegoat. The fans and players loathed his harsh coaching style and inability to communicate to the public. Coaching qualities are primarily characterized by concern for the interests of individual athletes, groups and good interpersonal relationship with players. While nobody is able to complement Belichick of being warm and accommodating, he has learned to open up to the media. Delegation of duties to his deputies has also been a major factor in his approach to the game. Additionally, as even he would admit, Belichick gets along with the team and staff much better. He holds a captains’ meeting once a week to keep the lines of communication open with the players (Holley, 2004).

Belichick’s record speaks for itself. He has not had a losing season in the NFL since 2000. He is a five-time super bowl champion after going there seven times. He is the only NFL coach to secure three super bowls in four years; he is a three-time NFL coach of the year, was selected in the 2000s NFL All-decade team and has an impressive career head coaching record of 192-104.  According to Pierce and Newstrom (2009), leadership is a psychological phenomenon, that is, a person with specific personality and demographic qualities. On the other hand, leadership is as a sociological phenomenon, which is to say that a leader is the result of a combination of groups, people and the needs of different situations. Coaching is a complex social practice that is composed and maintained by a set of interpersonal relationships. As coaching is often been synonymous with leadership, proper leadership is a vital and indispensable element in coaching.  

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