Knowing the Details of Those You Lead
He was called “Bear” after accepting a challenge to wrestle a carnival bear for $1 at age 13. The nickname stuck. As a legendary football coach, he would come to personify the nickname as a gruff, intimidating, and powerful leader who also had a gentle side.
Nearly a half a century after his death, the name Paul “Bear” Bryant is synonymous with college football. In an age of superstar coaches and multi-million dollar contracts, he is still widely regarded as the game’s greatest coach.
He compiled an astonishing record of 323-85-17 and led teams to 29 bowl games, 15 conference championships, and six national championships. The national coach of the year award in college football is named in his honor.
So many stories illustrate the superior qualities of the man, but one story stands out for what it truly means to be a leader who cares about those they lead.
In the 1960s during an away game, Bryant and his University of Alabama football team shared a pre-game meal with the home team in their training facility. Just before the meal began, the well-known head coach of the home team grabbed his clipboard and introduced his players one by one, reading off their names and hometowns.
He then turned to Bryant and asked him if he would like to introduce his team. Bryant hadn’t prepared for this request and didn’t have a clipboard or a list of his players available. Nonetheless, he stood up and introduced each of his 80-plus players by name and hometown. He also noted the names of their parents.
When he sat down, his players were awe-struck. They had never seen anyone do anything like that. More importantly, they had no idea Bryant cared enough about each and every player to remember their parents’ names.
Great leaders who truly care always know more about those they lead than others expect. They demonstrate their affection for people and for leading by knowing the details that matter to others. What details should you know about those you lead?
I don't trust those who perform this kind of thing as a parlor trick. Feels icky when it's done for effect.
But when he does it in the setting described, where he isn't trying to show off, there is something double compelling about the person who can do this. Almost like the advice is to care enough that the parlor trick can be done, but never is.