I’m originally from central Pennsylvania, having grown up on a farm in Lancaster County. We were about an hour and a half from Philadelphia. And you couldn’t help but connect to the local Philly teams.

The Eagles are one of those teams that always seemed to struggle, yet the local fan base is incredibly loyal to them. Disgruntled, complaining, obnoxious, whiney, but still loyal. And I am one of those diehard Eagles fans.

Now I moved away from Pennsylvania in the 1980’s. But my heart is still with those sports teams. So, you can imagine how I felt when the Eagles won the 2017 Super Bowl.

Elated, surprised, justified, humbled, fulfilled are some of the feelings that came to me.

The Coach Matters

But as I’ve listened to all of the analysis of the game and HOW the Eagles managed to win despite all of the diversity, I realized that…

The (Leader as…) Coach Matters

While I fully understand that the football team gets the ultimate glory, I also realized that their relatively new coach was also a significant part of the equation. And I started to align this to my own experience in coaching leaders and teach my Certified Agile Leadership classes.

In the article that inspired this piece, Kristin Anne Dudley focused in on Doug Pederson as a different sort of NFL coach. And she shared these six interesting leadership aspects that seem to have truly impacted his team.

  1. Practice self-awareness in order to achieve emotional intelligence.
  2. Exercise empathy – put yourself in your team member’s shoes, look through their lens.
  3. Create a culture of transparency – stay visible and grow trusted by your team. 
  4. Invest time in the relationships you have with your team members and give freedom for relationships to grow between them. 
  5. Never allow adversity to get you and your team down – change the narrative to see challenges as opportunities.
  6. Provide a purpose higher than self. Give your team the opportunity to align with something mission-driven, it will elevate them.

And if you look, not only do these six principles align to general leadership principles, but they align quite nicely to agile principles as well.

In my CAL class, we touch on all six in the following ways:

1.     Agile leadership is an inside-out job. One where the leader has to first be self-aware and have a compelling internal alignment. A big part of this involves introspection, reflection, and journaling as core activities. It also involves personal evolution.

2.     Emotional intelligence and empathy at all levels is something that helps leaders connect to their contexts. A big part is looking through the eyes of your teams even in adversity. For example, how are they feeling when you’re pushing a fixed scope/fixed date down their throats?

3.     Transparency is one of those Agile Manifesto principles. And we emphasize it in all directions or inspiring 360-degree transparency and truth-telling as part of the culture. A recent HBR article reflected on how many leaders struggled with very simple communications towards their teams. Improving this capability is a strong part of transparency. 

4.     One of the things that I try to focus away from is leadership as a lone ranger style of role. Instead, bringing your whole self into the workplace and establishing relationships (openness, connection vulnerability) are important. Transitioning your view from hierarchical to a collaborative network.

5.     It’s always been the case that the leader is the lighthouse for their organization. They shine the light either on the good or the bad. Continuously reframing towards opportunity, while celebrating successes is a key.

6.     We spend an inordinate amount of time in the class exploring the importance of purpose, mission, and vision. And looking at story-telling as a means of clearly communicating the goals. And not in just one setting or manor, but situationally and continuously.

Wrapping Up

I hear this fairly frequently in my leadership courses and conversations –  

This agile leadership stuff is simply, solid leadership principles and practices

And I couldn’t agree more.

So, Doug Pederson, not only are you a great coach, super bowl winner, and fantastic leader. Your also an Agile Leader.

Stay agile my friends,


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