August 17, 2009

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Score Takes Care of Itself

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 4:17 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh, Portfolio, 288 pages, $25.95, Hardcover, August 2009, ISBN 9781591842668

After the San Francisco 49ers went 2-14 in 1978, the owner went down the road to Stanford and hired Bill Walsh as GM and coach. During his tenure with San Francisco, the team went from the worst to first faster than any team in history. While his coaching skill is to be admired, it is his leadership skill that is on display here in The Score Takes Care of Itself.

When this book first landed on my desk, I looked at it with a cynical eye, figuring it was a book published simply to take advantage of the start of the football season. Instead, the author had been working with Bill Walsh on this book for some time before Walsh's death of leukemia in 2007, and it holds its own as a business book. Between his retirement from coaching and resuming front office responsibilities with the 49ers, Walsh taught classes in leadership at Stanford and, during that time, the two men worked on this book. When Walsh went back to the 49ers, the book was put on hold, but after his death, Walsh's surviving son continued the process and opened up the coach's archive. And those wishing to improve their leadership skills are better for it.

The first thing Walsh did when he took over the 49ers was install his "Standard of Performance." This document includes such requirements as:

"Exhibit a ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement; demonstrate respect for each person in the organization and the work he or she does; be deeply committed to learning and teaching ...; be fair; demonstrate character; honor the direct connection between details and improvement, and relentlessly seek the latter ..."
And that's only about half of the list's requirements. With standards such as these clearly laid out, everybody in the organization always knew where they stood, and Walsh's Standard of Performance greatly shaped the team that went on to win five Super Bowls and have a winning record of 102-63-1.

Walsh's leadership abilities, according to Joe Montana's foreword, were based in "... his ability to teach people how to think and play at a different and much higher, and, at times, perfect level." Within The Score Takes Care of Itself, Walsh and his co-writers unveil just how Walsh communicated his vision to the hundreds of people in the organization, and how he molded that vision into reality.