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Leadership Insights from Josh McDaniels

SG Leadership Insights Josh McDanielsJosh McDaniels has grown in wisdom. Through the school of life, he’s learned that people and culture are the crucial foundation for the success of a leader.

During the introductory press conference, he shared some insights that are are worth noting.

The NFL Las Vegas Raiders hired McDaniels as their new coach last week following a year of well-documented controversy and conflict throughout the organization. The previous coach was fired, leaving them with an interim to finish the year. Several other incidents also degraded the reputation and quality of the team.

Choosing McDaniels as the coach was seen as a questionable decision. After all, he had some baggage from the past.

In 2009, the Denver Broncos recruited McDaniels to be their coach and it didn’t go well. In the first season they got off to a fast start, but the team was constantly distracted with internal issues caused by poor communication and a lack of cohesive leadership. He only lasted two seasons before being unceremoniously fired.

During the press conference where he was introduced as the new head coach for Las Vegas, McDaniels shared some personal insights that show he’s grown as a leader who is authentic, resilient, and courageous.


“I didn't really know people and how important that aspect of this process and maintaining the culture and building the team was. I failed, and I didn't succeed at it.” (Josh McDaniels)

McDaniels was real. He acknowledged his own leadership deficiencies in his only prior head coaching experience. By highlighting his fallibility and mistakes from the beginning, he’s laying the foundation for a healthy culture where honest conversations can happen.

Failing to understand the importance of people and culture is a dilemma for too many leaders mainly because it’s harder than focusing on other aspects of the organization--marketing, programming, and other elements are far easier to fix. Yet without a strong ecosystem of engagement, success will only be temporary.

Vulnerability mixed with humility is a potent combination, so McDaniels began with the right tone. People want leaders with whom they can genuinely connect and relate.


"Looking at that experience has been one of the best things in my life in terms of my overall growth as a person, as a coach. What do I need to do different, how do I need to handle my role, if I have another opportunity, and do better at it?" (Josh McDaniels)

Leaders constantly face new challenges and unexpected threats, requiring a well-developed emotional intelligence and personal resiliency. That requires seeing any and every “failure” as an opportunity to grow. 

Natural talent will only get one so far in leadership—it’s resilience and hard work that prepare us for the inevitable battles of adversity. Committed learners are constantly expanding their skills as situations change, adapting both personally and professionally. 

Flexibility is a sign of intelligence that enables an extraordinary ability to recover and move on. It sounds like McDaniels has developed well in this area, choosing not to be defined by his past.


No one from the Raiders team showed up for this first news conference, so McDaniels obviously has some work ahead to gain the trust and engagement of the players. 

Leadership and growth happen only through courageous vision and perseverance through hard times and hard things. So, like McDaniels, leaders refuse to cower to those that relentlessly seek to discourage. 

Managing through a leadership transition is hard. 
Overcoming a culture of silos and dysfunction is hard. 
Making wise decisions while also maintaining vital relationships is hard. 

But, that’s what courageous leaders do because:

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” --Billy Graham


It will be interesting to watch the 2.0 version of Head Coach Josh McDaniels to see whether he can build the leadership capacity, organizational health, and continuous improvement necessary to return the Raiders to championship glory. 

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