News & Events
Leadership Lessons from the Man Who Wore Silver and Black
Raiders owner Al Davis passed away over the weekend. He insturmental at shaping America's most popular game. John Baldoni of CBS Bussiness network looked at leadership lessons learned from the owner.
Irritating and irritable but also irresistible.
That sums up the public veneer of the career of Al Davis, principal owner of the Oakland Raiders who died last weekend. But he was much more. He was a creator and a builder as well as a dedicated believer in his team and his players. His story as he described it was a “tunnel life” focused on football. Raised in affluence in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn, New York, he never lost its affect — in his speech and in his attitude. He was always in someone’s face, especially if that someone was in a position of authority.
As disputatious as Davis could be, his career as outlined in his New York Times obituary holds lessons for any manager looking for an example of how to and how not to lead change.
First the how-to lessons…
Be clear in your mission. “Just win baby!” was the Raider’s motto. Respect was not something Davis craved for his team. He wanted others to fear him, and in part it led him to design the Raider’s colors — black and silver — and pirate-themed logo complete with eye patch and crossed swords.
Know the game. Davis played football in college and began as an assistant upon graduation. He served as an assistant to the legendary Sid Gilman who coached the San Diego Chargers and from 1963 — save for a short time in 1966 when he was commissioner of the American Football League — he was either coach or owner of the Oakland Raiders.
Promote talent. Al Davis was a shrewd judge of football management potential. He promoted John Madden to head coach and he piloted the Raiders to their first Super Bowl title. Such was his push for talent that Davis hired the first Hispanic coach, Tom Flores, and the first black head coach, Art Schell. And it was not for show. Flores won two Super Bowl titles and Schell took the team to the Super Bowl.
Stand up for what you believe. Davis was head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 1963 to 1966 but gave it up to serve as the commissioner of the American Football League which was the upstart to the lordly National Football League. Under his watch the AFL poached NFL stars and drove up signing bonuses for college players.
Now the how-not to lessons…
Stop rocking the boat. Head strong as Davis was, it won him few friends. He and commissioner Pete Rozelle were bitter enemies for years, in part because Rozelle opposed Davis moving the Raiders to Los Angeles. Davis won his suit and the Raiders moved to L.A. in 1982. [He moved the team back to Oakland in 1995 after the Raiders could not win support for a new stadium in the greater Los Angeles area.]
Control your temper. Davis could be vindictive. He ordered Marcus Allen, who had been the league’s leading rusher the previous year, benched. Davis also hired and fired coaches on a whim, particularly in his later years — going through nine coaches from 1995 till his death.
Work with your partners. Originally brought in as a coach, Davis wanted more than on-the-field control; he wanted control over the entire organization. His confrontational style and backroom maneuvering eventually pushed the majority partner who brought him to the Raiders to sell out. But, as his biographer Peter Richmond told the New York Times, Davis’s desire for control was purposeful. Davis believed that “I can build an empire and dominate it if I do well.”
Know when to quit. The greatest knock on Davis is that he stayed active for too long. He did not hand over the reins and eventually the Raiders’ proud tradition eroded into mediocrity and worse.
Age did not really mellow Davis but judged by the outpouring of condolences from NFL officials and owners upon the news of his death you have to believe he did have some friends in high places. [Or maybe some were just happy they would not have to deal with him again.]
Like all leaders Al Davis was not perfect, and very often the imperfections were more evident, but he did build a sustainable football franchise and its value has only risen with the times.
The Full article can be found here