Tony DeMeo

What It Takes To Be #1 by Vince Lombardi Jr.

When you think of great football coaches, the name Vince Lombardi will always come to mind. As a matter of fact if you think of great coaches Vince Lombardi’s name is there. Come to think of it if you think of great leaders again you think of Vincent T. Lombardi. So a book about Vince Lombardi’s principles by Vince Jr. has to be on your reading list.

This book was a pleasant surprise because it wasn’t written by Vince Sr. but Vince Jr. does his Dad proud. What It Takes To Be # 1 is a great read with a tremendous insight into the core beliefs of a legendary coach. It is a well organized text written with a leader in mind.

Some of my favorite parts of the book deal with specific “Lombardi Rules”. For example The Lombardi Leadership Model:
1.Know Yourself – self-knowledge is essential.
2.Build Your Character – character needs to be built & nurtured. “The difference between big men and little men is strength of will” Lombardi.
3.Earn Your Stripes – a leader must earn the right to lead. No leader can continue to lead unless he wins battles. Lombardi did not have an easy path to greatness – he paid his dues. Today our society is enamored with resumes, networking and hot to get a job and moving up the ladder without really learning how to do the job. Malcom Gladwell in his best selling book, The Outliers, deals with what he calls the 10,000 hour rule which is all about paying your dues for success.
4.Think Big Picture – the major objective can never change. Have a vision and stay the course. Set the example. Develop high standards and then embody those standards. Know what a great team should look like. One of my favorite quotes is “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” I don’t know the author but it really hits the nail on the head. I see many teams and organization bounce from trend to trend, buzz word to buzz word, constantly changing direction looking for magic bullets and never ever getting it done. Some organizations idea of a long term strategy is changing the lunch menu, every day. Every time you change a system or a philosophy you lose all the banked reps you accumulated in the old system and are starting all over again. Lombardi’s system worked whether Frank Gifford, Paul Hornung, or Larry Brown was running the “Lombardi Sweep”.
Stay the course, adjust and adapt but keep the core in tact.
5.Leaders Are Made Not Born – leadership grows from self knowledge, character, integrity, competence and vision. Study the great leaders; learn from those who have done it. It takes time to develop these qualities, sometimes it takes a lifetime to become an over-night success.

This book touches on many other lessons from Lombardi and of course deals with the Lombardi Mantra – The Commitment to Excellence. The basis of that commitment is the daily discipline of striving and driving for excellence in all you do. The Commitment to Excellence has been the most inspiring part of Vince Lombardi for here was a man that truly “walked his talk”.

I strongly recommend What It Takes To Be #1 to anyone in any type of leadership role. But if you are a football coach I would suggest this as reading material prior to pre-season camp. This book is also out on CDs and can be listened to when taking that vacation trip.