The Lombardi Rules

Some sports coaches know how to get the best out of their teams. They make leadership looks effortless, which of course it isn’t.

A couple of our great football managers include Sir Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough. Both very different but both had a knack of producing brilliant teams. Their leadership skills are legendary and few have matched them.

There is another football coach that some might never have heard of before but certainly in the United States the opposite would be true. His name is Vince Lombardi.

Vince Lombardi is the most legendary coach in the history of American football. He won the first two super bowls ever and led the Green Bay Packers to the NFL championship five times in seven years during the 1960’s.

His son, Vince Lombardi Jr has written 26 lessons on leadership that he learned from his father and these are an amazing insight into the complexity of leadership. We can tap into these and make them work in our own contexts, sports or otherwise.

1. Ask yourself tough questions

“I’m not better nor less than the next man. But the thing about me is that I always knew what my acts would mean. I was lucky… I found a singleness of purpose early on.”

2. Look the truth straight on

“The successful man is himself. To be successful, you’ve got to be honest with yourself.”

3. Play to your strengths

“What it will come down to… is that we will try to do what we do best. We… will go with our strengths.”

4. Write your character

“Improvements in moral character are our own responsibility. Bad habits are eliminated not by others, but by ourselves.”

5. Think big picture

“The difference between a good coach and an average coach is knowing what you want, and knowing what the end is supposed to look like. If a coach doesn’t know what the end is supposed to look like, he won’t know it when he sees it.”

6. Be completely committed

“I would say that the quality of each man’s life is the full measure of that man’s personal commitment to excellence and to victory- whether it be football, whether it be business, whether it be politics, or what have you.”

7. Work harder than everybody

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”

8. Be prepared to sacrifice

“I think you’ve got to pay a price for anything that’s worthwhile, and success is paying the price. You’ve got to pay the price to win, you’ve got to pay the price to stay on top, and you’ve got to play the price to get there.”

9. Be mentally tough

“The most important element in the character make-up of a man who is successful is that of mental toughness.”

10. Balance humility and pride

“Simplicity is a form of humility, and simplicity is a sign of true greatness. Meekness is a sign of humility, and meekness is a sign of true strength.”

11. Lead with integrity

“If you cheat on the practice field, you’ll cheat in the game. If you cheat in the game, you’ll cheat the rest of your life.”

12.  Build team spirit

“Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence upon one another, and of strength to be derived from unity.”

13. Explain the whys

“They call it coaching but it is teaching. You do not just tell them it is so, but you show them the reasons why it is so and you repeat and repeat until they are convinced, until they know.”

“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfilment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle- victorious.”

14. Strike the balance

Leaders must have a balance between being close and caring, and too close.

15. Build confidence

“You defeat defeatism with confidence. The man who is trained to his peak capacity will gain confidence. Confidence is contagious, and so is a lack of confidence.”

16. Use your mission

“The man who succeeds above his fellow man is the one who early in life clearly discerns his objective, and towards that objective he directs all of his powers.”

17. Know you stuff

vince lombardi quote

18. Demand autonomy

Greatest Vince Lombardi Quotes

19. Respect legitimate authority

“You’ve got to remember one thing: If you’re going to exercise authority, you’ve got to respect it.”

20. Act, don’t react

“While statistics are interesting, they’re all in the past.”

21. Keep it simple

“Almost always, the plan is too complex. Too much to learn and perfect in too little time.”

22. Chase perfection

“If you settle for nothing less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your life.”

23. Tailor your motivation

“You can’t coach without criticizing, and it’s essential to understand how to criticize each man individually. Football is a pressure business, and on my teams I put on most of the pressure. The point is that I’ve got to learn 40 ways to pressure 40 men.”

24. Motivate by degrees

“This is not easy, this effort, day after day, week after week, to keep them up, but it is essential. Each week is a different challenge, but there is also that unavoidable degree of sameness.”

25. Focus on fundamentals

“I believe if you block and tackle better than the other team and the breaks are even, you’re going to win.”

26. Run to win

“The will to excel and the will to win- they endure. They are more important than any events that occasion them.”


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