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Bob Schoultz
Naval/Academic leader

Bob Schoultz

Captain Bob Schoultz (U.S. Navy, Ret.) directs the Master of Science in Global Leadership at the University of San Diego's School of Business Administration.

A private conversation

I don't follow the Redskins, but now that this decision by Dan Snyder has been made public, I can't help but think it has already undermined Coach Zorn's leadership. It sounds like the first step either to Coach Zorn being fired or quitting.

Had Dan Snyder wanted to keep him on and not undermine his authority, this conversation and decision would have taken place in private. (It may have taken place, and it may have been ugly, for all we know.) For public consumption, the shift in play-calling responsibilities could have been an internal adjustment that Coach Zorn was experimenting with, and the source of the idea revealed later. But now that it has been publicly forced on Coach Zorn, Dan Snyder will be taking credit or blame for whatever may come of it, which may be the point.

Dan Snyder may have felt pressure to show that HE is really in charge, taking action and making changes, in which case he did so at the expense of his coach's authority.

In general, the morale and effectiveness of subordinates are not enhanced when tension between those in authority are made public. Subordinates can hardly help but begin taking sides, with a stake in who comes out on top.

All leaders have strengths and weaknesses, but having an outsider publicly forced upon a leader to make up for weaknesses is a clear vote of no-confidence. It is not a happy time in Redskin Land, and I fear the public airing of these tensions won't help.

By Bob Schoultz

 |  October 27, 2009; 6:43 AM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I agree with Bob’s assessment wholeheartedly.

I would add a ray of hope for Coach Zorn though. If he allows pride and self-consciousness to cloud his mind he is surely headed for a painful separation from the team. But if he can look beyond his public reprimand and have the humility to make some adjustments I think his team will think even more highly of him.

It is common among professional athletes to display childish behaviors, throwing temper tantrums and an insatiable quest to be in the spotlight, being praised by others. Imagine the difference a coach could make by being an example of quiet dignity. How might they respond to someone who took his lashings (deservedly or not) in public and did not storm off indignantly?

We cannot control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we react to it. And it is our reaction which has the power to change the perceptions of others.

Posted by: SiddharthaHerdegen | October 30, 2009 7:07 AM
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For someone who doesn't follow the Redskins, your brief assessment of the team's woes is very accurate. The team is struggling largely due to owner Dan Snyder's and General Manager Vinny Cerrado's poor direction and decisions. To demonstrate involvement, Snyder stripped Zorn of a major responsibility, calling offensive plays.

Zorn now must improve the team's performance with limited ability to change its course. In management-speak, he has responsibility without authority. I also believe the players have lost some respect for Zorn. It's only natural for them to see his as emasculated, and they must wonder why they should trust a man who was publicly belittled by the owner and is constantly lambasted by the local press. The players must wonder, "Why should I listen to Coach Zorn? He can't even call the plays, and it's supposed to be his team? And if I do what he says, how do I know someone else won't be telling me to do a different way next week?"

Not that I've been in the military, but it seems to me high-ranking officers NEVER publicly bad-mouth one another. Doing so undermines the chastened officer's authority. I think the Redskins are explaining why the miliary follows this practice.

Posted by: yo_tamon | October 27, 2009 12:13 PM
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