The Bear Bryant Test

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Paul “Bear” Bryant was a legendary football coach. In 38 years of coaching, he only had a single losing season. In 25 years at the University of Alabama, he coached the Crimson Tide to 24 straight bowl appearances and six National Championships.

He got the nickname “Bear” in his teens when he agreed to wrestle a bear in a traveling carnival. No record of the outcome of the match survives. As a coach, Bryant was also a colorful character, known for his black and white houndstooth hat and the colorful things he said. Here are some of my favorites.

“If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”

“It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

“I’m no innovator. If anything, I’m a stealer, or borrower. I’ve stolen or borrowed from more people than you can shake a stick at.”

“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit – you’ll be a winner.”

That last quote is the one on the Bear Bryant Memorial on the University of Alabama campus. I love those quotes, but my favorite “Bear Bryant” quote isn’t by him, it describes him. The source is Howell Raines:

“Coach Bryant had an idea about how a man ought to act and if you watched him, you could figure it out.”

That’s the Bear Bryant Test. Can people watch you in action and tell what your values are?

Think about that. Do you have an idea about how a leader ought to act? Or about how your team members ought to act? If not, take some time and figure out what you expect, because your people will watch you trying to figure it out.

Can people tell by watching you how you think a person should act? If it’s just in your head or just in your words, it’s not enough.

If you’re a leader, you set the example. You set the example whether you choose to or not. You do it because your people watch how you act a figure out how they should act.

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