What Do You Do When You Make A Bad Leadership Call?

"Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll in embrace Super Bowl XLVIII" by Anthony Quintano - Flickr: Super Bowl XLVIII (48) New York New Jersey. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richard_Sherman_and_Pete_Carroll_in_embrace_Super_Bowl_XLVIII.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Richard_Sherman_and_Pete_Carroll_in_embrace_Super_Bowl_XLVIII.jpg

“Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll in embrace Super Bowl XLVIII” by Anthony Quintano – Flickr: Super Bowl XLVIII (48) New York New Jersey. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

By now, unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard that the Seattle Seahawks lost to the New England Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl.  And the loss was even more tragic in that it came down to one play at the goal line in the final moments of the game.

Seattle’s coach, Pete Carroll, called a passing play instead of the expected rushing play, and the pass was intercepted.  That play meant the end for Seattle’s hopes for this game.  And since that moment, arm chair quarterbacks and critics have been heaping on the abuse for Coach Carroll.

Was it a bad play?  You decide.  I think he was trying to do something unexpected.  The Patriots expected a running play; they lined up expecting that.  A successful pass would have been hailed as doing the unexpected – if it had worked. But it didn’t.

As the leader, what do you do then?

Coach Carroll really impressed me the next day.  In a press conference, when asked about that call, he said “yes, I made the call.” He owned it.  It was not popular – it was not going to win him any new friends.  But he owned it and he complimented the Patriot player who intercepted it.  “The guy made a great play.”

Much has been written about leadership lessons from the game.  But the lesson that stood out most to me was a leader who owned it when he made a decision that cost the game.  He showed grace to the winners, owned what turned out to be a bad call, and didn’t try to blame anyone else.  That’s what leaders do.

Regardless of what you think about “the call,” I believe leaders can learn much from Carroll’s actions.  The temptation when a leader makes a bad call is always to come up with 10 reasons why it wasn’t their fault – it was crazy market conditions, it was because of circumstances beyond their control, everyone around me thought it was a good idea – the reasons are as varied as the situations.  But leaders who lead with diligence own it, don’t try to pass the blame, and move forward.  That’s what Carroll did.  And that’s a lesson for every leader willing to hear it.

What other leadership lessons did you learn from this year’s game?