You Don't Have To Be The Boss To Be The Best

Wade Phillips has been fired from his job, at least, five times.

Last year, he was unemployed.

You can learn a lot from Wade Phillips.

Mediocre Head Coach. Brilliant Assistant.

If you don’t know who Wade Phillips is, then I apologize in advance for the sportsball reference. Phillips is the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, who won the Super Bowl last Sunday evening. 

In 1993-1994, Phillips was the head coach of the very same Denver Broncos. He lost as many games as he won, and was fired after two years. The same fate he would later face with the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons, and Dallas Cowboys.

Wade Phillips has been a mediocre head coach. But he is one of the great defensive minds of the past 40 years.

Phillips’ defense was outstanding against league MVP Cam Newton and the rest of the Carolina Panthers’ offense. Players raved about his gameplan and heaped admiration and accolades upon their 68-year-old leader. There was a majestic simplicity to his scheme, and he did what all great leaders do - he put his players in a position to succeed.

Bigger May Not Be Better

The lesson for you and me as a leader is that your best work may take place in the role you are in right now. Climbing the ladder and moving on to something bigger may not equate to something better.

Learn what you do best and then do that to the best of your ability. If your best leads you to the top of an org chart, then lead well from there. If your best opens up doors for your influence to grow, be a good steward of that opportunity.

And if your unique contribution and impact take place from the second chair or a smaller platform, please don’t believe the lie that you somehow failed. Wade Phillips should have been carried off the field last Sunday on the shoulders of his players; he was the most valuable person in the biggest game in American sports.

Don’t let anyone tell you that second-level leadership is second rate.

Wait, There's More

This post was originally published in Leadership Weekly, a handpicked collection of leadership resources from across the internet. 

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