As a leader in our newsroom, wishful reader of all books and all-things-sports enthusiast, I am always intrigued to read a book written about leadership by a coach.
When I found out Dave Steckel, head coach of Missouri State’s football team, wrote a book, I was automatically more interested.
Dave Steckel, the coach who tends to use as few words as possible to get his point across, wrote a book. I had to read it.
And that’s what I did. I spent a Saturday sitting at one of my favorite coffee shops reading. And annotating. And rereading.
“The Fisherman,” a back-cover described parable, follows Steckel vacationing during the offseason. Steckel’s accidental encounter with a fellow former Marine — The Fisherman — takes him through lessons on leading his team on the field and leading a good life off the field.
Some characteristics are common when thinking of a leader: accountability, courage, integrity. Others, though, are characteristics one might have to dig for when looking for a leader’s characteristics.
Endurance, for example.
For me, endurance is why I was a sprinter when I ran track — I didn’t have it. I had bursts of energy but didn’t enjoy withstanding the long haul of a 1,600-meter race. In “The Fisherman,” though, endurance is understanding that success doesn’t happen overnight.
I’ve never read something more accurate. It’s what men’s basketball head coach Dana Ford calls “buy-in.” When the season was first getting started last year, Ford said he needed the guys to buy into the program and the program’s beliefs. He hired the coaches on his staff because he said they bought in. That buy-in took the Bears to a 16-16 record with a complete scheme change with two months left in the season.
Ford and the players could have given up — they could have blamed the first-year experience and focused on year two. They didn’t, and they found success in the final portion of the season. That’s endurance as a leader.
I can’t say anything in this book was truly surprising. Everything I read made sense. But, reading how it can be applied in different environments is what really struck me.
Steckel did this at the end of each chapter — it reminded me of a “too long didn’t read” on a social media post. He explained his things to know and things to improve on. The simple adages at the end of each chapter offer a chance for the reader to reflect on their own thoughts. The broad yet directed messages at the end of each chapter are helpful reminders for the readers to reflect on the short chapters.
The most interesting thing about this book is the mention that people can’t act like a leader. To me, this book doesn’t tell people how they can become leaders, but how they can apply leadership qualities in their everyday lives. That can be taken a few ways — to me, any person can follow the traits of a leader to win what Steckel calls “the game of life.” That doesn’t necessarily make them a leader, though, and that’s OK.
However, this is also a “self-improvement” book for people who are already leaders. Some leaders naturally have these qualities. I’ve been coached by many and interacted with many other coaches. Courage, again, is one anyone in a leadership position must have. Leading takes courage, simple as that. But not only does courage mean being strong in the face of adversity, it means recognizing fears and addressing them. Leaders need to figure out how to do that too.
So, in my “too long didn’t read” fashion, I’d say this book is a short one for the leaders in your life. Read it before bed, give it as a gift — this is a versatile book.
Read it now
Take it on vacation
Give it as a gift
Don’t waste your time