The lessons are everywhere; the most painful found in the regrettable truth that his drive for excellence prevented him to some degree, the experience of true happiness and contentment that people like him who do so much for others truly deserve. And if the documentary was a book needing to be placed in a section of the store other than sports, with not a single edit needed, it would be on the top shelf under leadership.
His pursuit of perfection revealed his underlying imperfections however his steadfastness paved the way to his legacy, as his singular focus was not just winning, but winning by bringing out the best in his players.
As if his hard work and dedication were not enough, it was said in the documentary that for the majority of his life, he could be found at mass every morning before work, likely giving gratitude for his spirituality and gifts but also seeking answers for those imperfections that no doubt drove him harder to be the full leader he knew he had to be, but maybe not sure just how he needed to be.
A reporter who covered the Packers during Lombardi’s reign tells the story that at mass one weekday morning, he looks up and could not believe what his eyes; there stood Vince Lombardi, an alter boy holding the Gospel book for the priest as he was doing the reading and with a slight bit of humor added “you could tell from the look on the priests face that as he read, he was looking at Coach Vince thinking am I doing OK Coach, am I doing this right?”
The entire Lombardi film is relevant for leaders and despite all the turmoil that was a natural by-product of his passion, he remained focused on teaching others to believe that they could do more and be better than they ever thought they could had they not crossed his path. He was a true King-maker.
After 30 plus viewings and filling half a notebook with things that resonated on a soul level, what I perceive was the single thing that made his players “reach down deeper to get a little Lombardi” was that they knew he wanted excellence and they knew beyond his stone exterior he cared for them as people-but they also knew that he would cut their ass from the team in the blink of an eye if he didn’t’ think they could get him where he wanted to be, which was at the top. It was that very thin line between caring and cutting that actually drove them to be their very best. So simple, yet so complex and that’s the duality for which he seemed to have a Masters as well as Ph.D.
Courage was the price that life extracted from Vince Lombardi, as it does anyone who pursues what they believe with such passion and single-minded focus. A fan of football or not, please watch and learn because leadership is not easy, but it is necessary and it is everwhere.