Would Nick Saban Make It As a CEO?

Three leadership tips to take from Auburn's win over Alabama.

I was born and raised in the South where college football is a religion. I had no SEC affiliation, so when I got married, my wife's family seized on the fact that I had no true allegiance and I became an "Auburn fan by marriage."

Each year, the Auburn and Alabama teams meet up in what is called the Iron Bowl. While this game is always a big deal, last week's Iron Bowl was exceptionally important because the winner would move on to the SEC Championship game.

At the end of the fourth quarter, the teams were tied at 28. Nick Saban, Alabama's legendary coach, insisted that one second be added back to clock, adding one last play in regulation. The decision cost his team the game. In that final play, Alabama attempted a field goal that was blocked and returned by Auburn--a 109-yard touchdown that won Auburn the game.

Football, they say, is life. Whether or not you agree, there are many lessons you can learn as a business leader from Coach Saban's decision.

The Timeline Isn't Always the Most Important Thing

Saban's demand that one second be added back to the clock is like the executive who insists a product be shipped on time even if it's not ready. The damage a bad product launch can have on your company's reputation can be hard to recover from.

The wiser choice on Saban's part would have been to allow the time to run out and move into overtime. This extra time would have potentially given his team the runway they needed to be victorious.

While it's important to establish hard timelines for your project and initiatives, don't lose your focus. You should always strive to achieve the best result even if it takes a little more time.

Don't Send in an Amateur to do a Professional's Job

One of Alabama's weaknesses throughout the game was their inability to successfully kick a field goal. The final field goal attempt was more than 50 yards, and Saban chose an inexperienced freshman kicker. Instead, he could have attempted a Hail Mary by playing AJ McCarron--who has helped to lead Alabama to dominance over the past three years with his Heisman-caliber throwing arm.

Who knows if this choice would have turned out any differently, but when the stakes are high, it's always better to rely on a resource that is experienced and a known. This may require spending extra money to hire expertise or pulling your best resources from other initiatives. If this is not an option, then considering a different approach altogether might be the better option.

Anticipate Your Competition's Next Move

In Malcolm Gladwell's recent book David and Goliath, he explains that the underdog often wins because they employ unconventional methods. Saban didn't anticipate that Auburn would place someone in the end zone to catch the ball. The Alabama players were caught off guard as Auburn's Chris Davis jetted past them to score an instantly legendary touchdown that has been referred to as the "Immaculate Reception."

As a company leader, you need to play the field from both sides. Consider not just what or who your competition is today, you must also look to what they might do in the future. If you are selling your product based on a technology advantage, will that technology be obsolete in a few years? What else should your company provide to stay competitive?

These questions are easy to answer: Just talk to your customers, they will be glad to tell you.

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