Legendary Husker football coach Tom Osborne spoke at two events on campus today, presenting to community members as well as faculty and staff about the importance of leadership.
Osborne was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony of the twentieth class of Leadership York, a community enhancement program that trains young professionals to be more engaged in service. Leadership is a natural topic for Osborne, who has had a long and successful career in athletic coaching.
Currently, Osborne focuses much of his efforts on promoting Teammates, a non-profit organization he and his wife, Nancy founded in 1998 that pairs adult mentors with elementary through high school students. The goal of the program is for mentors to encourage kids to stay in school and make good life choices. Osborne spent time with YC faculty and staff promoting the Teammates program and recruiting volunteers to serve as mentors.
On the topic of leadership, Osborne says that there are three main kinds of leaders: laissez-faire, transactional, and transformational or servant leaders. Of these three styles, Osborne says transformational leadership is the most challenging but also the most rewarding.
Transformational leaders, he says, are not top-down leaders who delegate the difficult tasks, but rather, they lead by example and are always ready to take responsibility. They tend to focus on the process more than the outcome. They care about the individuals on the team and always behave with integrity.
Osborne shared some examples from his years of coaching, saying that a few of the things that made him successful in that role were due to the fact that his objective was to encourage his players to play well, not to win at all costs.
Osborne mentioned the book Heart of a Husker, penned by YC alumnus Mike Babcock. Babcock asked former Husker football players about the leadership Osborne demonstrated while they were on the team. According to the book, there were a number of things that players saw in their coach that were important to the team’s success.
Also important to a successful leader is a positive view of adversity, says Osborne. “Adversity doesn’t have to be your enemy. Adversity can be your friend,” he says. Without adversity, we seldom change. Without change, we cannot improve. See every adversity as an opportunity for improvement, he suggests.
Finally, he commended would-be leaders to have balance in life. Echoing ancient Greek philosophy, Osborne recommends that for a successful life, leaders must invest in themselves physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Too often the spiritual dimension is neglected, he says. Don’t chase after things that in the final analysis aren’t important, such as wealth and celebrity. Instead, begin with the end in mind. Don’t neglect the things that are truly important.
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