The Mentor Leader
Tony Dungy:The Mentor Leader
By Shawn Brown with
Aaron M. Little
The 700 Club
August 13, 2010
Sports Director Shawn Brown caught up with Tony Dungy this week to talk about Tony's new book, The Mentor Leader. The audio interview is here and below is the transcript:
Shawn: Coach, it’s always a pleasure to be with you. Your new book is entitled, The Mentor Leader. What made you want to write this book?
Tony: Well Shawn, since I’ve retired about a year and a half ago, I’ve had a chance to go around and speak at a lot of high schools, at a lot of youth group events, at business meeting type of things and people ask all the time, ‘hey, these principles that you talk about in football, do they apply to where I am?’ I really believe they are Biblical principles and that they are based on what Christ says is the way to lead and the way to be effective and have success and I do think they apply in every walk of life. And that was really the message behind this book, The Mentor Leader, that leading in the right way, helping people grow, helping your unit be the best it can be. That makes a winning football team, but it also makes a great leader in any other walk of life.
Shawn: You mention in the book, two key leaders or two key mentors who’ve helped you become the man that you are, one being your father and of course your former coach Chuck Noll. Can you touch on how each one has mentored you over the years?
Tony: Well, my dad was really the best mentor I ever had. I got to watch him when I was a young, young boy. I got to talk to him for over 45 years. We developed a relationship where I could ask him questions and he could give me advice and that’s the way it should be. I think he was certainly the one person who had my best interest at heart all the time wanting to see me develop into a person that would go out at 18 or 19 and blossom. That was always his motivation so he always tried to help me be the best that I could be. Sometimes that was discipline and sometimes that was advice. Sometimes it was encouragement, but he was always looking to help me. And then I benefited greatly when I was 21 years old going to Pittsburgh and playing for Chuck Noll, being around him for 10 years, seeing how he taught the team, how he put together a unit that functioned very, very well that had his stamp all over it, but didn’t need him to really make it work. I really thought that was the best mark of a leader, take a lot of individual ingredients, finding out what was best for each individual person and molding it into a cohesive unit. So, most of this book, it’s centered on Biblical principles, but most of the book really talks about how those two men impacted my life.
Shawn: When it comes to leading, it’s important to offset the characteristics that you have. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you implemented that into coaching Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne and some of the other players you coached on the Colts team?
Tony: Well that really goes back to Coach Noll as well. He told me something when I first started playing that every player loves to work on his strengths. If you’re fast, you love to run. If you can catch then you love to have passes thrown to you. But the truly great players recognize what they’re not as proficient at and they work on their weaknesses. And I think the same thing is true of leaders. We all have faults, we all have areas where we’re very, very strong, but if you know you have an area where you’re not as strong, to get people around you that can complement you that can do that job a little bit better than you and then put them in positions to do it. That’s the mark of a true leader as opposed to someone that says, ‘ I’m in charge, I have to be the boss, I have to make the decisions no matter what.’
Shawn: You also talk a little bit about why you chose to mentor Michael Vick. What is it you saw in Michael Vick that made you say, ‘hey, I want to mentor this guy?’
Tony: Well, as I mentioned, I learned so much from my dad and I can’t imagine where I would have been without his leadership in my life early on. So many of the players that have come into the NFL in the last 15 years have not had the same benefit. They did not have their dads there. So, I think that the coaches that have spoken into their lives have really had a major impact. So, I’ve been more aware of that with my ex-players, with guys who played for me who would want to just come in and sit down and talk about things outside of football and talk about life. I had a chance to go into Leavenworth Prison and meet with Michael when he was scheduled to be released and we had a chance to talk about what he wants to do and how he wants to put his life back together after 2 years in prison. We talked about his goals and what he wanted to do as a family man, what he wanted to do to encourage young men to encourage their potential and maybe not make some of the mistakes that he had made, what he wanted to do to get his career back in line. I felt he had great potential. I felt he could be someone who could not only do something with his life but to really be an effective spokesman for a lot of young people. So, just coming along side of him and being there as a sounding board to help him out has just been like the natural thing to do.
Shawn: Your own son, Eric, is on his way to play football at Oregon. Could you talk a little bit about how you’ve mentored him and prepared him to take that next step?
Tony: Well, I tried to do the same thing that my dad did. I tried to build him into a young man that was ready to leave home at 18 and go out on his own and be in positions to learn and grow. Eric’s been fortunate because he’s been around a lot of people that have impacted him. He’s caught balls from Peyton Manning at Colts training camp. He’s listened to Derrick Brooks talk about what Derrick has done in the Boys and Girls Club. He’s seen some great players in the NFL. Frankly, one of the stories in the book that I’m excited about is he’s going to be coached by a guy that I had indirect contact with through one of my coaches. I hired Mike Tomlin in 2001 on my staff in Tampa and Mike was a young coach who now has gone on to great heights, but one of his last years in Tampa he coached a young defensive back named Scott Frost. Scott learned a lot from Mike. He didn’t ever evolve into an All-Pro player or anything like that, but Scott went on to his own coaching career. He’s been in college football 6 or 7 years and just this past winter he comes into my home representing the University of Oregon and he’s recruiting my son. I’m sitting in the living room and I could swear I’m hearing Mike Tomlin’s voice, the same phrases the same everything. Afterwards I asked and he said, ‘yeah, Mike had such an impact on me that I knew if I wanted to go into coaching I wanted to coach the way Mike coached me. Now my son is going to be playing for Scott as a wide receiver at Oregon and Mike Tomlin, the impact that he had on a young man is going to be felt by my son years later. That’s what the book is all about, that you reach out and you mentor someone and they pass it on and in turn help someone else and it has ripple effect that spreads to places we never even dream about sometimes.
Shawn: A lot of the guys that have worked for you over the years, Herm Edwards, Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith…all these guys have gone on to head coaching positions and done great things and are still succeeding in whatever area of the business that they’re in. That’s really phenomenal.
Tony: In the book we talk about that. Part of that leadership is helping those guys grow so that they can elevate themselves and can use their whole potential and we get to see what they’re capable of.
Shawn: That’s the highest form of leadership, is it not?
Tony: It really is. When Herm Edwards was on my staff, it hurt when he left and went to the Jets. I’m losing a great coach, but you can’t be sad about that. You say, ‘you know what, he came up through my system, he got to show what he can do, another employer saw that and took him. It’s not that I’m losing a great coach, it’s more that that mentoring style is going to be taken somewhere else in the country and it’s going to benefit other people.’ So I had to look at that as a positive.
Shawn: You’re currently working with NBC Sports, what has that been like for you?
Tony: It’s been a learning experience for me. I’ve been mentored by Sam, a great producer there and Dick Ebersol, the president. They really taught me about the TV business. I’ve had to learn it from the ground up. But again, it’s the same thing. The veteran guys on the show help us to grow, realizing that our goal is to be a better show. So, if they can help me, if they can help Rodney Harrison who was another new analyst last year, if they can help us be better, then we’re going to have a better show and in turn we’ll be able to help someone down the road. It has been fun and we’ve been able to grow and develop our own personality and we haven’t had to fit into a mold that the station has wanted, but NBC’s been great and we’re definitely looking forward to year 2.
Shawn: If there was really one thing in this book that you want people to grasp, what would that be?
Tony: I think it’s the Biblical principle that the leader is there to serve and to help other people just as Christ did. The thing I’d want young people to grasp is, you don’t have to wait until you become elected before you can be a leader. You don’t have to be selected as the head coach or the president of the company. You always have people watching you. There are always people you can help and you can be a leader wherever you are. Don’t wait until you get put in a position of leadership, be a leader on your own.
Again, look for audio of this interview coming soon to CBNSports.com.
Copyright 2010 The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc.
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