Strong Leaders Are Expected to Take Risks… A Defense of Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks

Jason Pankow Coaching, Current Affairs, Good HR, Jason Pankow, Leadership, Sports

I really can write about more than just the Seattle Seahawks.  I promise.  Here’s proof.

I knew I was due to write the week after the Superbowl.  However, I had hoped to be writing about how to stay on top.  About how to continue to keep employees/players motivated so you are always putting the best product out on the field.

Alas, I can’t do that.  And, I’m totally bummed.

After the game, I knew exactly what I was going to write about.  Holland gave me the idea.  I was going to write about leadership making poor decisions in critical moments.  I was going to write about the Seahawks leaders—Pete Carroll, Darrell Bevell, Russell Wilson—about how all of them made a dumb- ass decision at the worst possible time.  About how good leaders trust their best performers (aka Marshawn Lynch) to perform what they’re paid to do.  About how, when you are one yard away from victory YOU DON’T THROW THE FREAKIN’ BALL!!  *deep breaths… deep breaths…*

The best way to put how I felt after the Superbowl is this:

should have

Sorry… I digress.

I have had a couple days to mourn. A couple days to put on my hindsight glasses.  A couple days to look at that play over and over again.  And a couple days to realize one thing: the Seahawks took a risk.  We want leaders who are willing to take risks.

What people seem to forget is that every single person in the Patriots organization was 100% sure of one thing on that final play.  They realized that, with complete certainty, the ball was going to Marshawn Lynch, who would turn on Beastmode and run that ball right up the middle with every member of the Seahawks offensive line pushing him across.

And, Pete Carroll knew they knew this.  He had time on the clock and timeouts left to kill.  So, he took a risk.  A risk similar to those he has taken before.  With fake field goals, or passing on 4th and long, or having Wilson hand the ball off only to run down field as a wide receiver.  The only difference, really, is that those risks paid off.

Our leaders should feel free to take risks.  And the only way they will have the confidence in themselves to do so is if we give them room to fail once in a while.  Sometimes, a failure could happen at a critical time.  Mistakes happen.  The Seahawks lost the Superbowl.  Bill Gates first created a company called Traf-O-Data before failing and moving on to found Microsoft.  Heck… even Justin Timberlake had to go through Britney Spears to get to Jessica Biel.

Success involves risk taking.  Risks involve occasional failure.  We can be pissed and second guess everything.  Or, we can accept it and move on making sure our leaders know we still have their backs.

Go Hawks!

Jason Pankow
Jason Pankow realized long ago that he wasn’t smart enough to actually program video games and game consoles. So, he found another way to participate! In between bouts of pwning newbs in Halo or scoring mad gamerpoints, Jason spends his time as the Staffing Program Manager for Microsoft’s Devices and Studios Division. Jason’s day is spent running programs that help recruit the obscenely talented developers, designers and engineers that have blessed the world with the likes of Xbox, Kinect and tons of other rad stuff, much of which he can’t tell you about. So, don’t ask. In non-nerd speak…what this means is that Jason has the coolest recruiting job in the world! Look him up as “Satchmo Baggins” on Xbox LIVE. But, watch out for the dreaded headshot!