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Super Bowl: Green Bay Packers' unique team leadership

Most people who watch the Super Bowl on Sunday will be tuning in for the football, the million-dollar ads or maybe the half-time show. Me? I'll be looking for leadership.

After reading a report on ESPN.com Thursday, I'll be interested to see whether Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy's focus on rotating leaders has any effect on the outcome of the game. With the youngest team in the NFL for much of his five years at the helm, McCarthy has been coaching teams that have been "energetic, competitive, and at times, undisciplined and rudderless," ESPN's Kevin Seifert writes.

So how'd they get to the sport's biggest game? Leadership, apparently, and an interesting approach to it. Earlier in this past season, McCarthy began rotating team captains each week, giving new players a chance to give the big game-day talks. McCarthy tells ESPN that doing so gave him a chance to see other sides to these players, discovering people he didn't know had much in the way of leadership chops before. "Giving those men an opportunity to be in front of the team more, our leadership has definitely picked up, especially down the run," McCarthy told ESPN.

But I see more of an advantage to this approach than just seeing who's leadership material and who isn't. Distributing the opportunity to inspire the team makes it everyone's job, rather than just one person's. Calling upon players who aren't the face of the team--quarterback Aaron Rodgers is just one of six post-season captains picked by the coach--changes team dynamics, making the culture less celebrity driven. And changing it up every week keeps everyone on their toes, rather than letting things get too stagnant under one person.

That said, natural leaders still emerge, even if the title gets passed around each week. Rodgers may be the team's most well-known face, ESPN reports, but cornerback Charles Woodson "has emerged as the Packers' soul." The player, who has come into his own in Green Bay, is starting to realize how much he's respected by his teammates, and is increasingly taking on a leadership role. A chat he gave after defeating the Chicago Bears gives a good sense of his motivational style.

Who knows whether Green Bay's focus on developing more leaders and rotating the job between team members will make a difference this weekend. It's hard to know whether McCarthy's leadership system will be the reason Green Bay misses a tackle, intercepts the ball or scores consistently in the red zone come February 6. But it's hard to argue it isn't a big part of why a team with some of the youngest players in the NFL is playing in its biggest game Sunday night. As Seifert writes, "I'm not sure that leadership surfaces at any particular moment, but it almost certainly manifests over time."

Also by Jena McGregor:
Redskins' Snyder: Reputation management in the digital age

By Jena McGregor

 |  February 4, 2011; 8:20 AM ET |  Category:  Sports leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Redskins' Snyder: Reputation management in a digital age | Next: Can Arianna Huffington hold onto that founder's drive?


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This is really digging deep for a leadership topic that didn't require any work on Sunday evening.

It would have been a lot more interesting focusing on how Woodsen motivated the team at halftime after he was knocked out of the game because he broke his collar bone.

Posted by: Delongl | February 7, 2011 11:04 AM

Reminds me of the movie "12 O'clock High" with Gregory Peck; a great movie about leadership.

Posted by: GoVOLS2 | February 5, 2011 2:55 PM

Study Steeler Coach Tomlinson's leadership style. He realizes that his organization chooses deep talent. His style is to approach players as intelligent professionals and to present comprehensive game plans requiring intense preparation.

There are no gimmicks or mind tricks involved. Solid professional ability used in a professional manner.

In the background is an organization that has achieved remarkable things under the Rooney family's competent ownership.

Any Steeler "mystique" is built on decades of results.

Posted by: roboturkey | February 4, 2011 1:11 PM

me, I'm going to a sports bar and checking out the men to see how many of them hug, pat each other on their rear ends and cry. This is a HUGE day for gender bending.

Posted by: medogsbstfrnd | February 4, 2011 11:47 AM

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