Thursday, July 16, 2009

Was Vince Lombardi Wrong?

Coach Lombardi, although great, was wrong when he said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." In fact, I've been thinking recently that this philosophy has caused us all some harm. Was it the singleminded drive to win at any cost that drove Enron, unscrupulous mortgage companies and banks? Bernie Madoff?

Now, I'm not laying the blame for our economic woes at Vince Lombardi's feet. My childhood pastor was Fr. Timothy Moore, one of Lombardi's lifelong friends. So, I grew up knowing about and respecting the Coach, and even sitting in terrific seats at baseball games courtesy of Father Tim's friend. But I think the famous quote leaves out a lot. I believe that the Coach was talking strictly about games, not about life, and not even about business. And I dread the thought that so many of our business leaders and political leaders have adopted this Lombardi quote as a mantra.

Earlier this evening, I read a blog entry by Miki Saxon over at Leadership Turn that reminded me how far off track some people have gotten in the quest to be first, best, top dog at the expense of courtesy, thoughtfulness, responsibility and decency.

Winning is (generally) good. Being the best, or fastest, or smartest, or biggest is not a bad thing. But putting the goal of being "Number One" above all else—or even denying the existence of all else, as this particular Lombardi quote does—can be easily recognized as the road to ruin.

When common decency, ethics, and even humanity are cast aside with reckless abandon in order to win in business or in life (i.e., be the most successful, or even eliminate your competition completely), I don't think Coach Lombardi would approve. I know Father Tim wouldn't.

Great leaders show compassion, respect, trustworthiness, honesty, decency, and other core values that were lost to Mr. Madoff, Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay, and so many others. I have no doubt that core values were something Vince Lombardi stressed at St. Cecilia's High School, at Fordham University, and at the Green Bay Packers. Otherwise, he would not have inspired his teams so well.

Give it some thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment