Bring Back Old School Leadership: Vince Lombardi, NFL Hall of Fame Coach from the 1960s

I love Vince Lombardi.  A deeply religious man, he was strict, compassionate, strategic, in that measure.  From reading his leadership, he seems 2/3 firmness, 1/3 compassion. And that led his team to be a winning team.  Not just in the score, but in how they played together.
They were taught to play their best.  At every practice. It was not about the game.  Lombardi knew that not just practice, but “perfect practice” would lead to success during game time.  He knew their individual best, melded together, would lead to the group’s best. 
From an article on some of his top leadership principles: 

“Winning is a Habit”

A famous Lombardi quote is “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Lombardi used practice time to instill qualities of commitment and preparedness, insisting players show up dressed out and ready to go at least 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled practice time, on what came to be known as “Lombardi Time.” During practice, Lombardi looked for strengths and weaknesses in each player, giving constant feedback. He knew that the habit of winning comes from good habits instilled on the practice field.

“People Who Work Together Will Win”

Lombardi knew that his team was only as strong as its weakest link. His philosophy on team-building was, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Lombardi did not brook disrespect or intolerance among his players, and he stood behind each of them. In 1965, when Lionel Aldridge, a black defensive end, wanted to marry his Caucasian wife, Vickie, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle came to Green Bay to try to stop the marriage. In defense of Aldridge, Lombardi told him, “My team is who my team is, and nobody can tell me what I can and cannot do.”

“You’ve Got to Play With Your Heart”

Long before academics linked psychology with sports, Lombardi understood it. He knew how to get the most out of each player by treating them as human individuals first and football players second. Lombardi took the time to figure out what made each player tick, then used that knowledge to motivate and get the most out of him. Knowing their coach cared about them on a personal level inspired each player to play with all his heart.

Read more:

Let’s practice Lombardi Leadership today.  Encourage the best of each individual you see, including yourself.  Provide excellent guidance, and, a kind heart.  Understand that leads to amazing group results, and a lot of team joy on the way to your goal!

 As the son of an Italian immigrant, Vince Lombardi was raised in a strict Catholic household. In 1928, at the age of 15, Lombardi entered the Cathedral College of Immaculate Conception to study for the priesthood. Deciding on a different career path two years later, Lombardi transferred to St. Francis Preparatory and starred as fullback on the football team.  Over the years, Lombardi became a legendary football coach. He coached for Fordham University, Westpoint, the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins and, most famously, the Green Bay Packers. During his five years with the Giants, Lombardi helped lead the Giants to five winning seasons, culminating with the league championship in 1956.   He was also an early proponent of equal rights during the era of the Civil Rights Movement.  He has sometimes been described as the greatest coach in football history. 


2 thoughts on “Bring Back Old School Leadership: Vince Lombardi, NFL Hall of Fame Coach from the 1960s

  1. giving50x52

    I worked for a CEO that operated on Lombardi time…and I appreciate the values that it gave me. Be on time. Time is important. We have work to do.

    If I was late for a meeting (rarely), the meeting didn’t wait for me, and I think that is the right message. We started before starting time. Thanks John G.!


    1. Pamela Hawley Post author

      Amen! Respecting other people, respecting ourselves…and being present.

      Thank you for wonderful backup. We can learn so much about athletes, training, discipline, and great coaching! How many people have been affected by superb coaches who were also leadership figures, fatherhood and motherhood role models. We’ll do more on this leadership!

      Sincerely, Pamela



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