Your Call! Super Bowl XLIX and Leadership

Accountability Resilience Teamwork


Key Point: Perhaps the most painful leadership lesson is this: When your team doesn’t win, when mistakes are made, when you make a call and it doesn’t turn out, there is only one person to accept responsibility for the outcome… YOU. I’m not talking about wasteful self-blame and flagellation. I’m talking about authentically, and thoughtfully accepting responsibility for a bad outcome.

If you were one of several hundred million people watching a phenomenal Super Bowl classic this past Sunday, Feb. 1, you witnessed the Seattle Seahawks throwing an interception in the New England Patriots‘ end zone, with less than a minute remaining in the game. Seattle seemed poised to win. They had the field position, players to get the ball in the end zone, and a plan to do so. But they didn’t execute. Credit must also go to Patriot Malcolm Butler who made the great interception.

Accountability has to be taken for a questionable play call and poor execution by the Seahawks. And the leadership lesson is this: However frustrated and heart broken Seattle was, Head Coach Pete Carroll did what he must do… Take full responsibility for the outcome. Yes, players play the game and coaches are not on the field to execute. Yet, it’s the coaches, ending with the head coach, that set the game plan and call most plays; as they did on this occasion.

Listen to Carroll’s explanation here:

He could have said things like, “we executed poorly, the offensive coordinator called that play, the quarterback should have called time out or should have thrown the ball where it couldn’t have been intercepted,”or a bunch of other things to deflect. He didn’t. He shouldn’t. Great leaders simply, “own it.”

Character Moves:

  1. When your team succeeds, let them bask in the limelight. The focus should be on them.
  1. When things go wrong, have the integrity and courage to take full authentic (not phony) accountability.
  1. Remember those moments of failure, especially when accompanied by feelings of despair, often become pinpoints of remarkable learning. Our response to loss defines our ability to persevere, improve, grow, and regenerate. Pete Carroll was fired twice early in his career. That learning led him to championship wins in both the college and pro levels. This will likely be a time to reset and gain even more personal leadership learning. 
  1. Losing also helps us reconnect with humility. We need to be confident. And yet, when we’re winning, we need to be humble enough to know that a loss is one poor decision, or someone else’s “great play” away from our failure. Stay humble. Take calculated risks. But never assume it’s always going to be a win. 
  1. Remind ourselves that one way to know we are fully alive is to passionately “play the game.” This includes sometimes taking a chance or making a decision that ends badly. The only thing horribly worse is standing on the sideline wishing and watching.

Owning the call in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Yeah, this one hurt. A lot. As a Seahawk’s fan, along with millions of other 12’s, everyone seemed to have the answer as to how NOT to mess this game up. Twitter exploded, begging time to be reversed and for the team to simply “run the ball.” Carroll’s explanation is as honest and blunt as they come. He’s spot on, as if saying, “well! Sometime’s $#*t happens.” Even with the best of intentions, things can turn into a nightmare situation in less than five seconds. Most true Seahawk fans on social media that I’ve seen, despite their frustration, understand this… Just as fans wish Malcolm Butler didn’t make that phenomenal catch (interception) to win the game, it’s our job as Hawk fans not to get too caught up on the defeat. They’ll be back.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis