Defining Leadership For The Dallas Cowboys


Late last week, some comments by Jason Hatcher implying that there was a lack of leadership last season within the Dallas Cowboys created a bit of a stir amongst us fan types. It would appear that the fans were not the only ones who took note of the comments. DeMarcus Ware, who is arguably the best player on the Cowboys now and for the past several years, said in an interview last Saturday that he does not see it that way.

"The thing is on our team, there's not a guy who is just a straight up, solitary leader. I think it comes as a whole," Ware said. "You got to look at it as we have [Tony] Romo, we have [Jason] Witten, you have me, Bradie James, Sean Lee. Everybody has their role and they take on that leadership role when it's needed. Every team doesn't need just a one-time guy who is like the leader of that team. If everybody is checking everybody, that's all you need. There comes a time to step up when it's time to step up and get the job done."

So, who is right and who is wrong? Put your opinion in after the jump.

There seems to be an obvious difference in the way Hatcher and DWare see leadership. To be truthful, they both have a point. Leadership is not a simple formula where things are done one way and one way only. Good leadership is defined by the situation, the personalities involved, the time frame, and a variety of other things. Above all, good leadership is that which works, and the best leadership works both short and long term.

Back when I was still fanposting, I wrote some articles that used military analogies. I haven't done as much of that since I got to the front page, but this topic can be perfectly illustrated by dusting off that motif.

Back in the 1920s, a couple of young US Army officers became fascinated by the idea of armored warfare. They were stationed together, and both were convinced that the problems that had led to the recent World War were not solved, and that there was likely to be a sequel in the not too distant future. They saw this new invention called the tank as the key to future land combat. They completely disassembled a tank used for training and put it back together again, just so they could understand how it all worked. Later in life, they would have their differences, but they would also use the knowledge they gained as young officers to work together effectively when their nation needed them.

Their names were Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton. One would be the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, whose greatest accomplishment was perhaps not as a combat leader, but as the man who held the British/American alliance together, while also dealing with the French and the Russians. The other was arguably the best mechanized army field commander ever, who was given the perfect tools at the perfect time for the Allied drive across France in 1944. And they were about as different in leadership style as any two men could possibly be.

Eisenhower was the master of building consensus and keeping the huge egos he had to command working together and not against each other. Patton was a self described prima donna who at various times would love to have challenged, among others, Bradley, Montgomery, and even Eisenhower himself to a duel. Eisenhower dealt with his men by going out and talking to them one on one, from the other generals down to the lowest private - and making them all feel like he respected and cared about them. Patton dealt with his men by standing up and giving bombastic, grandiose speeches like the one at the start of the movIe about him, which was actually a talk he gave, more or less, on several occasions. Sort of a bloodthirsty stump speech.

Completely different leadership styles. Who was the most effective? Well, both were very successful at the tasks set for them. If they had changed places, Eisenhower would possibly have been able to do the same, although perhaps not as daringly. And Patton would have likely broken the Alliance apart.

Hatcher seems to want that rah-rah, blood and guts, go-out-and-stomp-the-other-team kind of leader. He thinks that kind of inspiration would help.

"You have to have somebody who will hold you accountable and with a leader like that, everybody is held accountable, guys aren't doing their own thing here or there. Everybody is going in one direction," Hatcher said. "Once you have that, you'll be good. We're still looking for it."

That kind of leadership can be useful in the short term. It can rally a team at a crucial moment. But there are a lot of issues with it as well. I'm not going to get into what this may or may not say about Jason Hatcher the player, mainly because ScarletO has already done that quite candidly, to put it mildly. I take issue with the basic concept. As a long term way of handling things, I don't see this as the most effective approach. Maybe that is because I find a bunch of large, very athletic men in their twenties and thrities jumping around and talking like the sports entertainment they are participating in is life and death a bit ludicrous. But mostly, it is my experience. Getting all pumped up is good if you have a short term goal. In the long term, it wears thin. And it has to come from, essentially, a superstar. Joe Average giving that speech does not work. Ray Lewis can get away with it because he has established himself as one of the best in the business. Patton got away with it because he had faced the enemy himself, once leading an armored advance into hostile fire on foot. Oddly enough, he was not that courageous. He just couldn't stand anyone knowing how scared the thought of dying a coward made him, so he deliberately placed himself in harm's way early in his career to prove to the world, and himself, that he could do it.

But in the end, that kind of leadership becomes all about the leader. It is a cult of personality thing. It can work - but what happens the day the leader is not there? You can't just grab some guy out of the ranks and tell him to go do the same thing. It doesn't work.

DWare is describing something much more effective, a leadership that relies on a core of experienced players, who become a leadership corps within the team. It is, above all, leadership by example. It is players who refuse to be outworked, who don't shirk, who give everything they have to the team. That list of names he gave is pretty impressive, but the one that stood out to me was the one who is least likely to be with the team next season, Bradie James. The others are all current or likely future stars, but James has seen his best days pass. And yet DeMarcus singled him out. That says to me that he has been providing the leadership on the team. Leadership that is seen and appreciated by a legitimate standout and likely future Hall of Famer.

I also think that the DWare concept of leadership is much closer to the expectations of another Jason, the one with the red hair and the robotic press conference demeanor. Jason Garrett knows that you need some fire at times, I think, but I expect he places more value on the other, quieter approach, one where a group of players work together to demonstrate how it should be done, not yell and jump up and down to fire everyone else up, while, not to be forgotten, the cameras are centered on them. There is leadership, and there is showmanship. I think our society sometimes gets the two confused.

One other thing is that the quiet, work together leadership is a lot easier to continue. It can be passed on, and is something that can be learned to a great extent. The fact that Sean Lee was mentioned by DWare shows that the future will be taken care of. There will be no sudden vacuum when that one fireball suddenly retires or goes out due to injury. The torch is passed.

Having said all that, I will acknowledge that not everyone responds to things the same way, and even though I know what motivates me, I cannot speak for others. Hatcher made it clear he wants something else, some level of inspiration he is not getting right now. Some people are just that way. They will follow the right guy into anything, but they need someone to light that fire. Others are better able to find their own flame within. And I know which kind I prefer.

But I am not a football player, just a fan. So my opinion may not take everything into consideration. And the leadership issue has been discussed many times before, and Jason Hatcher is not the only one looking for something more.

It's your turn now.

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