Vince Lombardi was a legendary coach. There’s no debating that. His record was 96 wins against 34 losses. He won six division championships, two conference championships and two Super Bowls. Because he so exemplifies the spirit of football and winning, the NFL named the Super Bowl trophy, the Vince Lombardi trophy.
What were the keys to his success? Well, obviously, there were many including passion, a devotion to details, and an incredibly high standard of excellence. But one of the best things about the coach was his leadership, something sorely missing in today’s consensus-driven culture.
And his leadership began every year the same way in the first moment the team was together. All the players were anticipating the encounter but coach never failed to strike fear into even the most veteran players. Coach Lombardi had this gnawing fear every year. Because his teams were so successful, every other team in the league would target the Green Bay game as their most important of the year. His fear was, his teams would take winning for granted. So, coach took nothing for granted.
As David Maraniss describes in his wonderful biography, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi  “He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before. He reviewed the fundamentals of blocking and tackling, the basic plays, how to study the playbook. He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.””
How often I would like to see fundamentals described at the beginning of every project.
- “Guys and gals, this is a smart phone”
- “Team, this is the Internet”
- “Everyone, this is the agile process”
- And, maybe most importantly, “Folks, this is a client”
Sometimes in today’s culture, there’s so much “know-how”, so much pride in knowing and thinking you know, that the basics are missed; showing up on time to meetings, attention to detail, coding standards, respect for others, communication skills, email etiquette, manners, listening.
Yes, skill is important, knowledge is important, sophistication is important. But don’t forget to lead with the basics, the fundamentals, because without that you’re bound to finish second. As coach Lombardi would say “There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game and that is first place.”
 Maraniss, David. When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1999. 274. Print.