Leadership Lessons: From Seahawks to Global Hawks

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- A few months ago two titans of the gridiron, the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, played each other in Super Bowl Forty-nine. The Patriots out-played Seattle throughout the first half until a feverish final two-minutes and sixteen-seconds that included three touchdowns.

The concluding moments of the game were an all-out tug-o-war with the Patriots going 80 yards in 105 seconds before Seattle went 80 yards in 29 seconds. In the end, the Patriots pulled off what some have said to be the best fourth-quarter comeback in Super Bowl history against the best defense of the last decade. However, New England's victory was almost immediately overshadowed by the Seattle coaching staff's decision to throw the ball on the goal line; a play which had won them past victories but now sealed their demise.

The play was a calculated decision that Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll felt was the best option for the situation. In his article, "What Was Pete Thinking," NFL columnist Mike Silver explains the Seahawks coach's thought process. "Carroll saw a front stacked against a power run and a matchup he felt he could exploit with a short route against a rookie corner who had zero career interceptions. And he didn't want to run, get stopped short, burn his final timeout and be boxed into calling a pass on third down." In a later interview Coach Carroll explained, "You've trained your players to do the right thing, and I trust them to do right." Regardless of what one might think about the last play of Super Bowl Forty-nine, that kind of thoughtful decision making is why Carroll is known in professional football as an excellent leader.

If you study Carroll's coaching one thing is undeniable; the essence of his leadership style is about bringing out the best in others. Listen to how one of Carroll's staff, Ben Malcomson, describes the way in which Carroll leads, "One of the most impressive parts of Coach's leadership, is that he's remarkably consistent in terms of attitude and approach, while also never being boring or predictable. He encourages everyone to keep improving and growing and he fosters an eagerness about working and learning."

You might not be a Seahawks fan, or even a football fan for that matter; nevertheless, Coach Carroll's leadership model is worth considering in terms of how it relates to your role as a wingman and Airman leader. At every level of management here on Grand Forks Air Force Base we have been given the task of supporting the current mission, maintaining infrastructure for future missions, and increasing trust in the local community through continued partnership. While these priorities may be difficult at times, their success will largely depend on the type of leader you are willing to be.

So, are you a leader like Coach Carroll? Are you consistent in your attitude and your approach to how you lead? Does your passion foster in others an eagerness to work and learn? Leadership is often about taking risks; are you capable of taking calculated risks and are you able to take responsibility when those risks don't pan out? Do you encourage your Airmen to keep improving and growing and do you model that professionalism yourself. This type of leadership is born from experience, mentoring, and practice and must be fine-tuned, every so often, to maintain proficiency and relevance. As Carroll once told his team, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Let's get our habits right!"