By James M. Decker
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban. Perhaps the greatest college football coach of all time, Saban is also a master of leadership and management. Far beyond relying on coaching clichés and worn-out motivational tropes, Saban is a student of psychology and management science who truly understands how to make people better for the good of the individual and the larger organization.
Recently, after one of Alabama’s August football practices, Saban told the media something that struck me as particularly meaningful right now. Coaches often talk about their team “imposing their will” on an opponent; that is, the team, not the opponent, dictates the outcome of the game. Every team strives for this, but as with all greatness, it’s easier said than done. Nick Saban, seeing the big picture, said this:
“If you’re going to impose your will on someone else, the first thing you have to do is impose your will on yourself.”
Whether we use this lingo or not, those of us in community leadership desire something akin to a football team imposing its will on its opponent. We have ideas to improve our community that we believe to be worthwhile. We seek to implement those ideas and influence the community’s future, rather than sitting back and letting others dictate the future.
But before we can influence the future of our community, we have to impose our will on ourselves. Do we have what it takes to actually accomplish our goals? Plenty of people have great ideas, but do we have the respect and trust within our community that will allow the community to listen to us? Do we have the confidence in our ideas and the necessary self-discipline to persevere when the going gets tough? There’s a long line of folks who showed up in a new town, or back in their hometown, and, without any respect or trust, their great ideas promptly fell on deaf ears. Others started a great idea, got some support, and then when they hit a wall, rather than persevering, they got frustrated and gave up.
Moreover, do we have the discipline to actually live out the ideals that we’re projecting onto the community? Are we agitating about junked-up properties but somewhat lax about mowing our own high weeds? Are we personally encouraging local business by shopping locally? What if we’re campaigning for people to visit our town and move here, but we personally spend most of our weekends out of town?
These are not easy, comfortable questions. All of us, myself included, can likely stand to improve in some form or fashion. But when we DO live out the ideals we have for our community and when we ARE willing to do what it takes to improve our community, that’s when we start imposing our will on our own lives and great things will blossom around us.
* * *
James Decker is a lawyer, farmer, and mayor in Stamford, Texas, and the creator of the forthcoming “West of 98” podcast and website. He may be contacted through Facebook at facebook.com/james.decker.