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On the Value of Mature Leadership in College Football



I wrote about this a few weeks ago when I made the first-ever comparison between Mike Gundy and Warren Buffett, but I continue to be impressed by the way Mike Gundy is running his organization.

He talked about it again recently at practice.

“I haven’t had to tell them anything,” Gundy said of his team. “(Mason) Rudolph, Tre Flowers, Zach Sinor, (Chris) Lacy and those others guys have taken control. It has been beautiful for me. The easiest thing for me to do is to just watch these guys function on a daily basis and that’s essentially what I’m doing. I’m just staying out of the way. As my 12 year old says all the time, I don’t do anything at practice and I just stand there. When I just stand there and don’t have to get involved, that means things are going well.”

I’m reading a book right now called Deep Work by Cal Newport. In it Newport talks about executives like Jack Dorsey (Twitter and Square) and Kerry Trainor (Vimeo) and how they run their companies.

A good chief executive is essentially a hard-to-automate decision engine … They have built up a hard-won repository of experience and have honed and proved an instinct for their marker. They’re then presented inputs throughout the day … that they must process and act on. To ask a CEO to spend four hours (on) … a single problem is a waste of what makes him or her valuable.

This is the path it seems Gundy is on, too. A hard-to-automate decision machine. The best and most efficient way to do that, as Gundy has proven, is to hire (recruit) the best and most mature employees (players).

“When we have good teams, when we’re very competitive, we’re winning a lot a football games and graduating players like we have, it’s those guys that take care of themselves that lead the program forward off the field,” added Gundy. “When those guys that lead your program off the field are also your best players, and your best practice players, essentially I could leave for a week and it would still take care of itself. That’s how it has always been. They have to be great practice players in order to get respect off the field.”

I might get tired of talking about Gundy’s management habits someday. Today is not that day. I have no idea if he has studied CEOs of successful organizations to help him draw up his strategy, but I do know he’s been transformed as a manager and a coach. And Oklahoma State is better off because of it.

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