Super Bowl Winning Coach Sean McVay’s Leadership is So Simple You Should Model It

Every leader, good or bad, should be your teacher. It’s just more fun to learn from successful leaders. 

Whether you are a football fan or not, LA Rams Head Coach Sean McVay is a great leader to study. In a sport where age and experience create a perception of one’s ability, McVay has risen to the challenge and showed that age was just a number. At the ripe age of 35, he is the winningest active coach in the NFL and the youngest coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl.

While McVay has the work ethic of many great coaches with the intellect to match, that’s not what’s most impressive. His leadership and, specifically, what he leads with that sets him apart.  

A Great Leader Cares First

McVay said it well in a recent interview, “Good coaches help their players reach their highest potential. In order to do that, it starts with being able to connect with them as human beings first. You do that by believing in guys and caring about them. When you care about the players you are working with, that’s when they want to play hard for you.”

McVay’s comments could be summarized in a simple and powerful leadership lesson: care for your people. Because when you care for your people you earn the opportunity to get everything they have. Caring means a feeling of being concerned for someone and having an urge to show kindness to them.

When you boil leadership down to the simplest form, the simple act of authentically caring for someone is leadership.

The simple act of authentically caring for someone is leadership.

In order to show your people you care, much as Sean McVay does, you have to get to know them on a professional and personal level. This starts with asking them authentic questions about their journey, experiences, challenges, and aspirations. So instead of just going through the motions, you have to be intent on listening and then remembering what you hear, so you can adjust your actions in the future to show them you listened.

Beyond the tough yet straightforward leadership lesson of caring for your team first, there are three other lessons that you should model in your leadership approach from McVay.

1. Be Demanding But Uplifting at the Same Time

McVay is a leadership junkie who reads, listens, and absorbs ideas from every possible place to apply them with his team. A great example of this was when he was asked about surpassing Steelers Legendary Coach Mike Tomlin as the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. Not only did he give a glowing response to the kind of leader and man Tomlin is, but he gave us a secret to leadership.

“Mike (Tomlin) is a great example for all leaders as far as how you are demanding but uplifting to your players. How you’re so steady and so mentally tough in those moments when your team needs it the most.”

Great leaders are demanding but uplifting to their team

2. Embrace Consistency as a Key to Performance

It’s easy for managers to measure performance based on outcomes. While results are essential, McVay doesn’t believe they are the best measure of performance. On an episode of the Flying Coach Podcast, McVay said something that caught me off guard, “Consistency is the truest measure of performance.”  

Consistency is the truest measure of performance.

The closer you look at his words the more accurate they become. In business or sports, the reality is that we rarely, if ever, control the outcome. However, we can control how consistent we are with our effort, preparation, attitude, and energy.

We can't control the result, but we can control how consistent we are with our effort, preparation, attitude, and energy.

When every single member of a team shows up consistently at their highest level, there is a good chance the outcome will match. However, if the results don’t end up favorable, McVay and other great leaders can live with the result because they know their team was consistently excellent in their actions.

3. Lead with Urgent Enjoyment. 

If you are a fan of HBO’s hit series Ted Lasso, you know all about the main character’s positive leadership approach that includes a simple locker room sign that says, “believe.” McVay channels his inner Lasso with phrases and mantra’s on walls of the LA Rams facility like:

  • “The Standard is the Standard”  
  • “We Not Me” 
  • “One Rule – Be On Time”
  • “Situational Masters”
  • “Embrace the Suck”

However, it’s another leadership saying behind the desk in his office that grasped my attention. All it says is “Urgent Enjoyment.” In a world that moves faster than ever before, and opportunities come and go seemingly before they arrive, urgent enjoyment is the perfect mantra for a leader and team. I like to think of the term this way:

Urgent – We don’t know what will happen tomorrow

Enjoyment – Find joy and passion in work

"You don't know what will happen tomorrow, so you might as well be urgent today."

The urgent part is easy for most leaders. The enjoyment part is much more difficult. While work isn’t meant to be easy, no one says you shouldn’t have fun while doing it.  

Closing

Whether you were happy about the outcome of the LA Rams NFL Championship, take leadership lessons from Sean McVay. Care about your people first, be demanding but uplifting, embrace consistency as the truest measure of performance, and lastly, lead with urgent enjoyment. 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Sean McVay Uses This Key Idea to Be a Great Leader (and you can too)

In 2017, the Los Angeles Rams broke conventional wisdom and hired Sean McVay to be their new head football coach.

The youngest coach in the NFL at just 30 years old, McVay had a lot to prove, and he faced a challenging environment filled with people who had much more experience.

In a sport where age and experience creates a perception of one’s ability, McVay rose to the challenge and showed that age was just a number. In his first two seasons, his Los Angeles Rams went an impressive 24-8, won two Division Championships, and played in Super Bowl VIII against the New England Patriots, only to lose.

While McVay has the work ethic of many of the greats with the intellect to match, it’s the care he has for his players and coaches that sets him apart. He explained this so well to his quarterbacks during a team meeting this offseason.

“One of the things that are consistent amongst all great leaders is they’re a great teammate that is invested in the guys around them to raise the level of play,” he said. “You do that by believing in guys and caring about them. When you care about the players you are working with, that’s when they want to play hard for you.”

McVay’s comments could be summarized in a simple and powerful leadership lesson: Care for your people.

Show your team you care, and they’ll give you everything they have.

In order to show your people you care, much as Sean McVay does, you have to get to know them on a professional and personal level. This starts with asking them authentic questions about their own journey, experiences, challenges, and what drives them. Instead of just going through the motions, you have to be intent on listening and then remembering what you hear, so you can adjust your actions in the future to show them you listened.

Like all great relationships, the only way to get there is by dedicating time. A mentor of mine always told me, “Kids spell love, T-I-M-E.”  The same is true in showing people you truly care about them. Your time is valuable and you can’t get it back. Devoting time to someone else shows that you care, and they are more important than anything else you have going on.