Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Score Takes Care of Itself (NF 2009) - Bill Walsh

When I was a band director I read lots of books on leadership. I can’t tell you how much I learned from those books, most of them biographies of successful coaches, athletes or military leaders. In many ways they shaped the way I taught and thought about leading young people. I still have many of those books, works by or about Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Lou Holtz, Jack Welch and many others.

You should also know that I am not, never have been and never plan to be a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, mainly because I have been a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan. (Nausea ensues each time I see any portion of “The Catch.”) So it took a lot of self discipline to read the late Bill Walsh’s The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership. But I’m glad I did.

To be honest, most leadership books are basically the same. The coach/CEO/manager takes over a poorly performing, disorganized, disgruntled, dejected organization and slowly builds a philosophy of winning, hits highs and lows along the way to becoming a recognized dynasty. All of this comes about due to the leader being demanding but fair, working insane hours, neglecting friends and family, etc. There’s some of that in The Score Takes Care of Itself, but there’s also an atypical, candid look at the leadership hero and his weaknesses.

Walsh was an incredible coach. His legacy is undeniable. Just take a look at the coaching tree and see how many coaches can trace their lineage back to Walsh. But his drive and determination almost destroyed him.

I’m not sure when most of this book was written. According to co-author Steve Jamison, interviews with Walsh took place many years before Walsh’s death in 2007. Yet many times you sense Walsh is looking at large parts of his life with regret, wishing he had done things a little differently. The book is also “balanced” with comments from some of Walsh’s players and assistant coaches, whose recollections shed some interesting light on Walsh’s own recollections.

You don’t have to be a leader or a teacher to enjoy The Score Takes Care of Itself. You certainly don’t have to be a 49er fan. You may, however, have to block out that image of Dwight Clark reaching up, extending his fingertips to completely shatter my world in 1981.

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