The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy

The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently by Tony Dungy

I recently read Tony Dungy’s “The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently.” Honestly, my favorite part of the book was getting to peak behind-the-scenes of his time in the NFL. As a sports fan and football fanatic, I’ve always appreciated Tony’s approach to leadership and coaching. This book, while not providing a wealth of new information on leadership (but seriously, what new can be said), was a fun read due to the football side notes and leadership reminders.

That said, here are my highlights:

Level 5 leaders . . . embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated. attribute success to factors other than themselves. display a workmanlike diligence—more plow horse than show horse. set up their successors for even greater success.

If all you’re about is winning, it’s not really worth it. I’m after things that last.

I had been mentored by so many. They had all added value to my life. And my leadership style had been influenced by them.

Actually, some self-doubt is a healthy attribute in a leader.

I believe that certain principles of successful leadership are timeless.

Leadership is not an innate, mystical gift; rather, it is a learned ability to influence the attitudes and behavior of others.

Understanding the profound effect of our leadership is often the first step toward adopting a style of leadership that has proved itself effective over many generations—a style I’m calling mentor leadership.

… mentor leaders seek to have a direct, intentional, and positive impact on those they lead. At its core, mentoring is about building character into the lives of others, modeling and teaching attitudes and behaviors, and creating a constructive legacy to be passed along to future generations of leaders.

I don’t think it’s possible to be an accidental mentor.

Mentor leadership focuses on developing the strengths of individuals.

Mentor leadership works best when the ones being mentored are aware that the mentor leader has a genuine concern for their development and success. Those we lead will be more receptive if they believe we genuinely want them to succeed.

Mentor leadership is all about shaping, nurturing, empowering, and growing. It’s all about relationships, integrity, and perpetual learning. Success is measured in changed lives, strong character, and eternal values rather than in material gain, temporal achievement, or status.

Unity of purpose and a desire to make other people better must start at the top if these goals are going to ripple through an entire organization.

Leaders whose definition of success depends on such a short-term focus—and by short-term I mean temporal, noneternal—will one day wake up to discover they’ve missed out on what is truly important in life, namely, meaningful relationships.

Relationships are ultimately what matter—our relationships with God and with other people. The key to becoming a mentor leader is learning how to put other people first. You see, the question that burns in the heart of the mentor leader is simply this: What can I do to make other people better, to make them all that God created them to be?

Mentor leaders understand that if we lose sight of people, we lose sight of the very purpose of leadership.

if you’re a leader, people’s lives should be better because of the influence you’ve had along the way.

Leadership, as I believe it should be understood and displayed, must first and foremost recognize that it is not enough to be successful in the world’s eyes.

Mentor leadership focuses on building people up, building significance into their lives, and building leaders for the next generation.

Leadership based on building significance into the lives of others is much more energizing in the long term than other types of leadership.

God’s success is “good success.” It’s significance. It’s making a difference in the lives of others. It’s Joshua standing on the banks of the Jordan River, feeling anxious and inadequate, and realizing that he is being called to do something that will make a difference in the lives of the people he is being called to lead. And in that moment, it’s Joshua also realizing that he can only do it with the leadership and in the strength of God.

The difficulty for most people is that maintaining a long-term perspective requires faith.

By faith, I’m able to approach the events and circumstances of my life with an eternal perspective.

How does your leadership style need to change so that people will flourish and grow around you?

The Mind-set of a Mentor Leader: “It’s Not about Me”

The Focus of a Mentor Leader For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. . . . A time to tear down and a time to build up. . . . A time to be quiet and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3, 7

Situational leadership means that different styles are appropriate at different times, and it is important that a leader be discerning enough and close enough to the situation to know when to use a particular style.

Leadership that regenerates is what allows teams to win consistently.

Frankly, people who can lead effectively for a time are a dime a dozen, in my opinion. People who understand basic leadership skills and are able to implement them are not unique. But leaders who are willing to place the focus somewhere other than on themselves are truly unique.

Am I prepared to have great success and not get any credit for it?

As we move on with our discussion of mentor leadership, here’s what you need to understand: If you do it right, as a mentor leader you may make it all but impossible for other people to give you credit.

I have noticed that too many golfers become so focused on the result of any given shot that they never enjoy the moment—before, during, or after the shot.

A good friend of mine taught me the importance of enjoying the journey and not letting a vision for the future cloud my view of the present—a present, I might add, that we will never have the chance to live again.

Not everyone is going to embrace the vision or have the patience and belief in the vision to conclude the process.

Values, very simply, can be thought of as the “rules of the road.”

Now, instead of the usual diagram, picture the chart with the number one leader at the bottom and the lines of responsibility and reporting spreading upward and outward. Think about each “subordinate” role now as a position of lifter, equipper, and encourager to the ones above it on the chart.

Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin

Unloving people are unloved people. The people who are hurting you are hurting themselves. Hurt people hurt people. Ken Whitten

If you carry emotional baggage, the only person it bothers, affects, and holds back is you.

This battle is one that is waged all the time by people who don’t get the media attention but have the same struggle: passion versus priorities.

Complementing our strengths with the strengths of others is a recipe for achieving great things together.

I have divided these characteristics into three groupings, which I call trustworthy traits, leadership attributes, and relational qualities.

Vision matters, but character matters more.

When you are leading, your goal should be to achieve success and significance over the long term, not to be just a flash in the pan.

Nothing is more deflating to morale than to have a poor outcome pinned on someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Most of the time, we are only judged on the outcome, whereas the only thing we can control is the process. Make your process the right one and stay true to it.

If you pursue mentor leadership, God will ultimately use you for His good; and He is capable of accomplishing more than you ever thought possible. Focus on the impact you can have with the platform God gives you.

Mentor leaders understand that leadership is not about authority, direction, or control, though each, in its proper place and time, is appropriate. Instead, the focus of the mentor leader is on adding value to people’s lives.

You’ve been entrusted with a unique set of circumstances, relationships, and opportunities. No one else stands precisely where you do.

What can I do with the platform I have? What solutions can I offer? Just complaining did nothing to help the children in his classroom, and it would have distracted him from seeing the opportunity he had before him—to have a positive impact on his students’ education and ultimately on their lives.

It’s a mind-set that sees the platform as it is—not as it someday may be—and takes action now.

Your platform may not include an audience with the president, but it is important, and it has the potential to change the world, one life at a time.

“Why would you let anything stop you from doing what you have the ability to do?”

First, you can’t lead in a vacuum; leadership is all about relationships.

“But my kids do need to understand the importance of a call. If you’re called to do something—committed to following through on your words—then sometimes, that is bigger than what we want to do. I hope my children grow up understanding that God may call them to do things that take them out of their comfort zone to benefit someone else.”

Frankly, when you’re in a crisis, it’s too late to try to get people to follow you—unless you have already demonstrated faith and confidence in noncrisis times.

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. . . . You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. Martin Luther King Jr.

The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven. Knute Rockne

You can achieve more with a team than without. I’ve seen it time and again: A team that is functioning well is more than just the sum of its parts.

To maximize team performance, the leaders must create the appropriate culture: a culture that underscores the mission, vision, and values of the organization. A healthy culture values its people. Great organizations aren’t great places to work simply by chance—they are intentionally created.

The culture you create permeates everything you touch.

Though mastery of the Xs and Os is definitely a part of the game, it isn’t the primary characteristic of the all-time great coaches. Instead, what sets them apart is their ability to reach across a variety of backgrounds to get everyone on the same page.

He used to say, “We need every man on this roster to win, but no player is so important that we can’t win without him.”

Too many leaders give lip service to the collective power and impact of the organization, but then continue to stockpile high performers without regard to whether those individuals will complement the other members of the team.

How we respond to advice, correction, and constructive criticism makes all the difference:

One of the best ways to get people to work together is to prepare as if you will be leading a team of volunteers.

As a mentor and a leader, I have found that I cannot move the ball forward with positive, nurturing leadership until I engage with those I am blessed to lead. Once I’ve engaged with them, I am able to educate and equip. Throughout the process, it is essential to encourage, empower, and energize in order to finally elevate the people around me.

A true open-door policy is a matter of attitude and approachability, not just whether the office door is propped open.

Through it all, Sam taught us and put each of us in a position to do what we did best, without any concern for whether he received credit—which is exactly what a leader is supposed to do.

Mentor leaders create an environment in which others can be productive and excel. They set the parameters and guidelines for the task, project and continually recast the vision, and then provide the tools and equipment needed for everyone to be successful in their assignment and to ultimately accomplish their mission.

In essence, they strive to furnish what is needed for the task—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—and to accomplish the mission.

“Leaving the game plan is a sign of panic, and panic is not in our game plan.”

Encouragement is the fuel that powers our efforts to engage, educate, and equip. Nothing does more to lubricate the rough spots than a good dose of encouragement.

What are the goals in place for your organization?

The regenerative idea that leaders produce leaders, who in turn produce leaders—is a powerful concept for mentor leaders and their organizations. At the heart of this regeneration is the principle of elevation—raising people up.

As a mentor leader, the success of the people you’ve elevated is what you like to see.

An organization that remains totally dependent on a particular personality seems to me one that has not been properly led.

The first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But . . . the good Samaritan . . . reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Martin Luther King Jr.

the mentor leader adds value to the lives of others, to make the lives of other people better.

Some mentoring relationships last for years and result in deep friendships. Others can happen in a moment of sharing the wisdom of your experience with someone standing right before you. The key is to look for opportunities and be ready to act.

That letter was a good reminder to me that we always have time. We always have a platform. There is always someone whose life we can affect—even if we’re not aware at the time that we’re doing it.

The biggest thing I try to do is to help other people. More than anything, that’s what I saw in my parents. If you want to help people become the best they can be, they will gravitate to you.

A platform is merely the place where God puts you and the space you have to exercise your gifts and influence people. We all have one.

I’ve learned that people can usually do more than they think they can, and many times more than I think they can.

Leave a Reply