A Better Way To Lead

Leadership //

Yesterday I watched one of the most lop-sided championship games I have ever seen. Honestly, I expected it to be a little lopsided – Peyton Manning is a great quarterback and this was Pete Wilson’s biggest game. Like many others I though the Broncos would run up the score with a big win over Seattle.

What I didn’t realize is that Seattle is a different kind of NFL team. Their coach, Pete Carroll isn’t just out to win games – he wants to have the best team possible. And I think there is plenty that ministry leaders can learn from this coach.


Every Seahawk player knows the coach’s vision. It isn’t about winning individual games – he wants them to win multiple Super Bowls, and he has a plan for getting there.

As ministry leaders, we should have what Jim Collins calls a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. A dream of being better, a dream that seems out of reach, a dream that everyone wants to get behind and make happen.

Keep Your Cool

When we look at the sideline of many sports team, we can see that they are lead by strong type-A personalities. It’s not just sports either. Type A people seem more driven and louder so they tend to become the leader – but loud and demanding doesn’t always lead to better.

Carroll strives to keep his team thinking positive. Assistant head coach Tom Cable puts it this way, “If I go ballistic because he dropped a ball, [I’m] attacking his self-confidence and he’s learning that if he screws up, he’s going to get yelled at. [I want them to learn that]. If you make a mistake here, it’s going to get fixed.”

But it’s not just on the field positive thinking. When someone from the team is interviewed, the interview is to end with a thank you to the reporter. Conduct off the field is important – not just for team image, but because the coaches care about the players.

As ministry leaders, we too should focus on fixing problems through helping people. Mistakes are going to be made, often. How we help people recover from them is an important part of our ministry.

People, not Objects

Carroll approached his new position with the Seahawks with the question that is extremely abnormal in the NFL, “What if we cared about every individual?”

The Seahawks coaches monitor what’s going on in the players lives – are they getting enough sleep, what are their goals, how are they handling their stressors, even going so far as to care about the health of their pets. If a player is dragging, they’re proactively ask why rather than jumping to conclusions.

They’ve also hired a life skills consultant to help players navigate their next steps after football.

As a ministry leader, how are you doing in the people care department? Are the workers under you feeling as cared for as the children? Are your leaders involved in the lives of their workers, finding out about goals, stressors, health of friends, family and pets? Do you have a plan to help them take their next step when it is time to transition out of your ministry?

The Right People on the Bus

Pete Carroll took over as head coach in January 2010 and by the end of that year had made over 200 player moves. By the end of the following year he had made over 500. Finding the right people isn’t easy, but it is imperative to arching a vision. Carroll wanted positive people and his staff went to great lengths to make that happen. Getting a position on the team isn’t just about great stats; the interview process is just as important as performance.

While it seemed to many that he was taking a chance by handing the reigns to rookie QB Russel Wilson – Carroll knew that Wilson had bought into his vision. He also knew that Wilson was positive leader and had a track record of making huge goals and reaching them.

There are two key areas where we we are prone to make personnel mistakes in ministry. The first is about who we have on the team. As ESPN writter Alyssa Roenigk says about the Seahawks, “[they] wanted guys who truly bought in, and they weren’t interested in begging for converts.” Who we don’t have on the team can be just as important as who we do have. In your recruiting efforts are you sending a message of desperation or are you looking for the right people?

The second one is in where we place those people.It’s vital that we have the right people in the right places because when they are in their sweet spot, they shine…and that makes it so tempting to reward them by promoting them. But it does them and the organization a disservice if they are promoted beyond their giftedness. Its better to look for other ways to reward people and then have that hard conversation to help them to see why your doing what may be perceived as an end run around them.


Honestly, in a hard hitting sport this sounds too soft, too caring. And based off the game Sunday it also seems pretty easy to say that this ‘new way’ of coaching in the NFL is the right way. It may or may not be, but it has certainly gotten results – and not just a Super Bowl win. In the 4 years that Carroll has been coach, they’ve been in the playoffs 3 times, twice as division leaders. They also became the 1st team since 1950 to score back to back 50+ point games.

While these tips seem to work for the NFL, they’ve ben proven many times over in ministry – and ‘wins’ for our team have an even longer lasting effect. As you move forward over the next few weeks, consider which of these points need your best effort and look for ways to make your team a winning team.





About the Author

Jesse and his wife, Teri, will celebrate 20 years of marriage in May of 2012 and are raising two growing sons, Kevin and Alex. After moving from the DC metro area in 2008 they adopted a mastiff named Book and slobber became a way of life. In his spare time, you may find Jesse enjoying photography, biking, or simply watching a movie or reading. Jesse is a graduate of Cohort K from Bethel Seminary’s CFM program and serves as the Children and Family Pastor at the Evangelical Free Church of Wauconda.