Skip to main content

Warren Buffett arrives at Tokyo's Haneda airport for a visit to Japan, Nov. 30, 2011.


The following is an excerpt from The Championship Formula: How to Transform Your Team Into a Dynasty by Jack Stark.

After consulting with hundreds of leaders in companies and coaches at all levels and various sports, I am constantly amazed at three phenomena. Number one is team leadership. I often hear corporate CEOs and coaches complain about poor leadership and I think—and occasionally say, if they are open to me—whose fault is that?

It's yours. You have not prepared your staff or players over the years to assume that role. You've gone on as if it is going to happen naturally.

Story continues below advertisement

As I describe in more detail in the later chapter on training, I believe in establishing intensive training programs that I label Leadership Academies for Corporations. The results have been dramatic; the programs prepare leaders at all levels so that communication and management are not always top down.

In sports, you may naturally have great leaders and it's great, but more often than not, if you do have great leaders, they tend to be quiet and keep to themselves and try to lead by being role models. This approach doesn't work that well. That is why I helped develop the concept of the "Unity Council" so successfully used at the pro and college levels, specifically in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln football program during the 1990s. It was a weekly process in which I met with 17 players, elected by their peers, teaching them to lead as well as giving them a voice on how to manage the team. The peer pressure is powerful and it works. More than two dozen national collegiate and pro teams have adopted this "unity council" model, which within a few years, saw the 2007 New York Giants won the Super Bowl after implementing a similar program for their teams.

The second phenomenon is the naiveté of coaches applying for head coaching positions. They show up for interviews so unprepared! Often their presentation involves, "Hey! Do you know who I am? I was a star player, have done great things and you should hire me because I can motivate and I will win for you!" They naively fail to prepare a business plan or portfolio detailing their ability to recruit or draft, coach, fill seats, market, raise money, etc., etc. They don't realize they are the main PR voice and face for a university or franchise that will bring millions of dollars to their school, team, or community and the selection committee—big or small—will be looking for a CEO as much or more as they are for charismatic coaches. If you want to be a coach, do your homework! Prepare a 40–50-page plan that impresses people that you are uniquely qualified.

It has been my experience that most coaches will reach the "finalist" level when they submit a detailed plan and are often selected unless the politics take over. But a great business plan at least gets you in the door and often the top job with the kind of respect one needs during their early tenure. Perhaps this is the biggest reason for the massive turnover in coaches every 4 1⁄2 years and CEOs every 3 1⁄2 years. Corporations, big and small, from Fortune 500 to small start-ups, want a vision, a plan of how to get to that championship level.

The third phenomenon is the poor communication skills, particularly when it comes to relationships, both personal and professional. On a personal level, the long hours can consume a coach or leader, with a major impact on his marriage and family. Coaches are supposed to be tough, and few witnessed open affection growing up, particularly those sons and daughters of parents who experienced the hard times of war, depression, and recession. But this is all changing along with being able to relate better to others. Nothing turns players or employees off more, in my experience, than coaches and leaders who can't relate or connect with them. The best (Tom Osborne) was able to connect intellectually, physically (with a gentle tap on the shoulder and an occasional hug) and at a deep level, spiritually, by connecting in a special and unique way with each student-athlete or employee, no matter whether the star quarterback, a walk-on who never played a down, or the housekeeping staff. All were special to him.


In 2003 before a game pitting Nebraska against Texas A&M, I accompanied Warren and his good friends Walter Scott Jr. and David Sokol on a pre-game tour of our Nebraska football program. Following the tour, Warren delivered an inspiring pep talk to our Husker team. The players were glued to their seats as he asked them to imagine hypothetically that he would buy each one of them a brand-new car. "I would buy you any car you desire—Rolls, Lamborghini, etc." The student-athletes were buying into Warren's mind-boggling proposal when he added,

Story continues below advertisement

"There is just one catch. The condition is, it will be the only car you will own for the rest of your life." Then he explained his analogy, "The car is a parallel to your body. You must take care of it—give it the best fuel, keep it protected, don't abuse it—because it is the only one you will have for the rest of your life." The players can recite, years later, that motivating message. And, yes, they won big! And, no, they did not get new cars!

Warren Buffett's ability to communicate with individuals at all levels of the investment world has likewise significantly contributed to his reputation as the greatest financial genius ever.

Whatever the era, the endeavor or the end-goal, the sine qua non is communication if a dynasty is to be built.

Well, there you have it. If you want to win in life, you cannot have "a failure to communicate."

Welcome this trait, embrace it, and develop it as a critical skill, as it will only become more important in our connected world.

The leaders at the top and the roles they play along with their personality traits, six of which have been covered thus far, conclude this first section. The remaining three traits and the Process and Purpose building blocks for a dynasty follow.

Story continues below advertisement

Copyright 2012 Jack Stark, Ph D. Published by Emerald Book Company.

Report an error
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.