Ever been in a situation where you witnessed something go from bad to worse and all you could do was stand and watch? Maybe it was bad enough where you had to avert your eyes, turn away and pretend like it wasn’t happening. Watching from a far you might have even said to yourself in the moment, “what are they doing?!” followed by a couple choice expletives.
If you’ve experienced this before then you know EXACTLY how I felt this past weekend watching my Cincinnati Bengals lose the first round wildcard playoff game on Saturday against our arch rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bear with me here as I am going to do my best not to drone on and on about the awful showing my team put up the other evening as there’s actually a great learning lesson that came from it which is incredibly applicable to our professional lives. Applicable indeed, especially if you are in a leadership position or hope to be in a leadership role at some point in the near future.
Poor leadership impacts everyone around it, everyone being you, me, the company, the customer, in this case the fans, etc. In business this typically shows up in the form of poor communication, discipline issues, bad decision making, people working in silos, losing one’s ‘cool’ and under performing in key situations. As for myself, I’ve done a couple of these in my leadership tenure and learned a lot from it so I can share first hand that these are some of the biggest leadership killers out there.
Ironically, those characteristics of poor business leadership I just shared are also the things we witnessed in Saturdays NFL playoff game when the Bengals single handedly gave away their win to the Pittsburgh Steelers. First, let me say that if you’re reading this and you happen to be a Steelers fan…congrats on the win, well played. You all deserve to keep your season alive. Now that I feel better about myself for playing nice and being a good loser I’ll continue my rant on Cincinnati’s poor leadership.
Before we move into the meat of things, it’s important I set the stage with some background info in the event you’re not up to date on your Cincinnati Bengals trivia. Heading into Saturdays game against the Steelers, my Bengals came to the table with some stats which certainly point in the direction of this game being incredibly important. Here’s the bottom line on the boys in orange and black:
Needless to say, it’s tough being a fan of Cincinnati at the moment. Regardless of your thoughts and feelings on the NFL, the stats above tell a very clear and frustrating story. It seems as if the executive team and owners of the Bengals franchise overlook these statistics of poor leadership performance, while as a fan looking from the outside in its plain as day to see the issues and how to resolve it. The Cincinnati Bengals (like many businesses we’ve all worked at) struggle to realize that their inability to be successful is a direct result of their leadership. A lack of good leadership makes it difficult for even the best and brightest talent to perform at a high level.
Back to Saturday’s game. Cincinnati’s loss will go down in the books as a complete and utter meltdown. Let’s examine the last two minutes of the game so we know what happened and why the Bengals lost:
The last two minutes of that game came down to a team being able to perform under pressure (Steelers) and a team imploding from their own lack of discipline and selfishness. (Bengals)
Since the game, commentators have cited the players as the issue as the reason why the Bengals lost. I happen to have a different perspective. When teams win or businesses succeed, the best leaders are always quick to give praise to their team indicating the group effort and high performance as the reason for the success. However when good leaders are faced with unfortunate circumstances rather than cast that blame on the team they shoulder responsibility for themselves. That’s what good leaders do…they give praise for a job well done and take blame when things go bad.
When it comes down to it leading is more than just a title and a seat up on top. To be good in leadership you first have to care about those around you, then build a platform for people to be wildly successful. Excuses, mediocrity, bad attitudes, a lack of accountability, what have you, have no place in this world for those who want to be successful. To be great you must think and act for others first, yourself always second.
While I never would wish bad things to happen to another individual, such as Marvin Lewis the Head Coach of the Bengals, my hope is that ownership wakes up before the beginning of next season and makes some changes. Without those changes we’ll continue to be a mediocre team falling short of what could be a great program for years to come.
As they say, “There’s always next year”.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.