Sports Ball Leadership Insights with That Guy From The 49ers

Book Review: “The Score Will Take Care of Itself” by Bill Walsh

Bill Walsh was the head coach and general manager of the 49ers in the early 80’s that took them from being in last place to winning the Super Bowl in 3 seasons.  I’m not the biggest sportsball fan, so I’m sure many of the anecdotes were lost on me, but it does a good job of bridging that by making sure the leadership principles discussed are fairly universal.

The books is pretty lengthy, so I decided to try the book-on-tape route to and from work as recommended by my cousin.  It took about a month of transit to get through, however there were a lot of really good insights.  A lot of it offers top down leadership advise on managing every aspect of an organization, so it’s a book I will likely re-read later in life when some of the ideas are more applicable to my level of responsibility and authority.

That being said, there is a through line of a micro-management style of leadership, which is not one that I personally am fond of, however I can appreciate how it was effecting in the context in which it was used.  It was interesting to get a very different perspective on leadership and it does offer great advice on setting goals, creating a plans and contingency plans, actively teaching, analyzing and evaluating strategies, having open communication, and adhering to a standard of excellence; some of which I will start incorporating in to my everyday life.  However, I could also see where someone could potentially read this book and justify a closed-minded approach to management without utilizing the aforementioned qualities, which is why I would might hesitate recommending it without a few caveats.

The title of the book comes from the idea that if you focus on continual improvement, attention to detail, and establishing high personal accountability, your team will eventually become so efficient that “the score will take care of itself”.  The book features a lot of different lists of ideas for surrounding different situations, however the predominant one is Walsh’s “Standard of Performance”.

  1. Ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement.
  2. Respect for everyone in the program and the work that he/she does.
  3. Be committed to learning.
  4. Demonstrate character and integrity.
  5. Honor the connection between details and improvement.
  6. Demonstrate loyalty.
  7. Be willing to go the extra mile for the organization.
  8. Put the team’s welfare ahead of my own.
  9. Maintain an abnormally high level of concentration and focus.
  10. Make sacrifice and commitment the organizations trademark.


It was more difficult to pull quotes from the audio book, but there were a few that really stood out (with a few more and additional commentary to be included in a follow up post).

“Few things offer greater return on less investment than praise.”

“Hearing someone described as being able to “Fly by the seat of his pants” always suggests to me a leader who hasn’t prepared properly and whose pants may soon fall down.”

“Others follow you based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations.”

“Your enthusiasm becomes their enthusiasm; your lukewarm presentation becomes their lukewarm interest in what you’re offering… When the audience is bored, it’s not their fault.”

“Victory is not always under your control… However, a resolute and resourceful leader understands that there are a multitude of means to increase the probability of success. And that’s what it all comes down to, namely, intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chance of prevailing in a competitive environment.”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: