Boise State 84 – University of Tennessee Martin 14!!!! No, that was not the final score, but it easily could have been. Boise State (BSU) played their second and third-string players much of the second half. Had the starters stayed in, even through the third quarter, BSU could have scored 84 points or even more. The strategy BSU used in the second half brought out at least 5 leadership lessons that leaders should take notice.

The decision to put in the less-experienced players and to “down” the ball for the last two minutes when in excellent field position was clearly a leadership decision, and in this case most likely right from the top with Head Coach Chris Petersen. Coach Petersen knew the game was in hand. His choice was to either run up the score possibly improving his team’s ranking down the road or he could go easy on the UT-Martin Team.  A good leader would have followed Coach Petersen’s example and make the second choice. A leader realizes that football is played to win, but it isBSU Football Logo also an opportunity to demonstrate good sportsmanship to players and fans as well as growing the team.

What good would have come if Coach Petersen would have chosen to further demolish UT-Martin? It may have served to temporarily satisfy some of the fans, but the decision would likely humiliate the opposing players. A good leader does not do that. I am sure that Coach Petersen understood that the UT-Martin team was made up of good (but less talented) people and led by a good coach; they were simply outplayed.

What are 5 leadership lessons we can learn from this BSU win?

  1. Increase skill level by letting as many on the team participate as possible
  2. Show humility in victories
  3. Show respect to competitors
  4. Make sound decisions for each unique situation
  5. Be a role model

Effective leaders realize that they always are setting the example and they must set the bar high. Unfortunately, not many college-level coaches do that – the win (and the larger the win) is what is most important.

I am glad that as a BSU fan I have a coach who looks at the bigger picture and exemplifies good sportsmanship and, more importantly, excellent leadership. Coach Petersen’s team members learned much more last Saturday than simply that they were the better team. They learned how football, teamwork, and good sportsmanship go hand-in-hand and that a good leader needs to make the right decisions. To me, it was a double victory for the BSU team.  And by the way, the final score was Boise State 63, UT-Martin 14.

For more leadership case study lessons, see The Leadership Compass: Mapping Your Leadership Direction to access over 30 leadership case study examples.

Ben McDonald

Ben is a leadership and talent development thought leader. He has worked with executive teams in over 20 countries and multiple industries growing and inspiring talent and organizations to achieve their best.

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