If you are reading this post in Budapest, stop. I’m about to write about the Pittsburgh Steelers. And I know yesterday’s Steelers-Ravens championship game won’t be broadcast in Hungary until tonight. I’m also told it’s tough to follow the game there — where the announcers have a tendency to yell the equivalent of “GOALAAAA” as though they were watching the Mexican national team in the finals of the World Cup. I digress.
For those of us in the USA, it’s no secret that the Steelers won and will now head to the Super Bowl in Tampa to play the Arizona Cardinals on Feb. 1. It will be the seventh trip to the Super Bowl for the Steelers — and they now have the opportunity to be the first team to win it six times. What is the saying now? One for the second index finger? I digress again.
That record of success over a long period of time says something about leadership — on the field certainly. But more importantly it speaks to excellent management — and leadership — throughout the organization, beginning at the top. At a time when our businesses and other institutions desperately need leadership, maybe Dan Rooney — owner, chairman and son of the team’s founder, Art — serves as a model that extends way beyond the gridiron.
By all accounts — and certainly from what I’ve seen during the past 40 years — Rooney is an excellent manager. He hires good people. (Steelers have had three coaches since 1969.) He runs the Steelers like a business, which it is. And he appears to be a man of integrity and principle. Something tells me those qualities extend throughout the organization. And they matter.
Dan Rooney is credited with the Rooney Rule, requiring NFL teams to interview minority candidates for a head coaching job. Two years ago he hired Mike Tomlin although I imagine the easier choice — and I expect the more politically correct one in Pittsburgh at the time — would have been to stay with Ken Whisenhut. Whisenhut was one of Bill Cowher’s assistants; he is now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
Anyway, I expect that most professional football people — coaches, GMs, personnel guys and gals, and so on — all know the game and have strong resumes. So what explains the success of the Steelers during the past 40 years? How about leadership.
Does all (or any?) of this really matter? Well, yeah. Certainly management and leadership matter. As evidence, look no further than the debacle on Wall Street.
And to a large extent professional football — and college football in most places as well — is really just a business.
With one exception. Sports teams become unifers of communities. I know that is true in Pittsburgh. The weather is bleak, the economy is not so hot. But during the next two weeks — in the cold, gray and snowy days of January — there is still something to cheer for in the Burg and throughout the Steeler Nation.