John Madden was an American football coach and sports commentator in the NFL. Both on the field and in the booth, Coach Madden possessed an uncanny ability to simplify the complicated.

He was a winner in every sense of the word.

At just 33, Madden became the head coach of the Raiders — leading the franchise to an astonishing seven AFC title games during a 10-year span. He won a Super Bowl in 1976 and would go on to win 75.9 percent of his games, the highest win percentage of any NFL coach with a minimum of 100 appearances. 

When he left the sidelines, Madden transformed both the sport and the broadcasting industry with his unique communication style, in-depth knowledge, and great enthusiasm for what was happening in front of him.

Years ago I came across Coach Madden’s philosophy which he boiled down to three simple requirements for his players:

  • Be on time.
  • Pay attention.
  • Play like hell when I ask you to!

Coach Madden had a gift and he shared it with the world.

Listening to him talk about the game of football and the game inside of the game, was fun.

Coach Madden was never bored, and neither was the viewer.

I read an article that pointed out how Coach Madden made the many nuances of football fun, entertaining, and, above all, digestible.

Lessons from Coach Madden

Here are some things we can learn and implement in leadership as part of his legacy:

  • Manage to hold people’s attention
  • Fuel your team members’ curiosity and desire to learn
  • Communicate things in such a way that it makes sense
  • Keep them coming back in a day and age when
  • Do the best you can with what you have, to become the best you are capable of becoming.


This was originally published as a weekly newsletter from Ed Molitor, with The Molitor Group. If you’d like to receive the weekly newsletter, follow this link to subscribe.