The Score Takes Care of Itself

My Philosophy of Leadership

Title: The Score Takes Care Of Itself
Subtitle: My Philosophy of Leadership
Author: Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781591843474 (paperback)
Amazon Rating: 4.6 out of 5, 760 ratings
Purchased from (Germany) on 14 March 2021 for €16.83 plus packing, postage and VAT

What the book is about:
Bill Walsh evolved into a legendary US National Football League (NFL) coach and team general manager. He achieved remarkable success, especially with the San Francisco 49ers, until he decided to call it quits in 1988. This book is about his leadership and management philosophies, and methodologies, that most aficionados seem to ascribe his success to. Bill also drew close parallels between his approach to football and running or managing a business. Anyone who has spent significant time in business in general will readily be able to see the correlations.

It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing. As with their counterparts in the business domain, most NFL team owners didn’t have the capacity or vision to spot the talents of a person like Bill at an early stage either. But, he only needed one big break, which he got from the SF 49ers owner, when they were down and almost out. After enormous success it all went to the 49ers owner’s head. He made the mistake of thinking he knew better and eventually got in the way, inducing Bill’s bow-out and exit left stage. Proves yet again that money, status, position, etc. are, at best, flimsy indicators of capability or judgement.

There is a lot of interesting and important content that any aspirant or current business or entrepreneurial leader could assimilate from the book – too much to even just glance over here. But a few of the insightful points Bill makes might be:
“Leadership is expertise. It is not rhetoric or cheerleading speeches”
“Others follow based on the quality of your actions rather than the magnitude of your declarations!”
“Repeat-winners at the high end of competition are rare due to ‘Success Disease’ – it’s true in business as in sport”. Very interesting concept!
“Big ears in leaders are more important than big egos – one of the greatest and most neglected skills in leadership is the ability to listen!”
“Ego is a powerful and productive engine. Egotism is something else entirely. Seek character, beware characters!”
“A pretty package can’t sell a poor product – the world’s best promotional tool is a good product!”.
“All the knowledge in the world means little if you can’t communicate”

Why Selected:
Having worked for a ton of bosses in a number of countries over the years one eventually starts to recognise patterns. Precious few really good leaders and managers, far more at the other end of the spectrum, and the large mediocre middle-ground. My inducement to pick up this book was the title, ‘The Score Takes Care of Itself’. Reason being, bar the very few good managers I’ve worked for, most bang on about ‘targets’, or more other-worldly starry-eyed dreaming, with little cognisance, or likely, understanding, of the importance of a realistic real-world ‘process’ above and prior to any meaningful consideration of real-world targets. For example, professional golf one might expect to be purely centred around the target of winning. But no, if one listens carefully to what the top performers and top coaches are saying, the absolute best players start with a laser-sharp focus on meticulous process and routine, and maintain that focus during preparation and play. Performance is the by-product. It’s the press, pandering to the mindless masses, that harp on about ‘how many tournaments have you won this year, when are you going to win the Big One, and such like. Given the title of the book Bill is clearly a believer in and demonstrator of the success of this approach. Other example proponents of this philosophy would be Lanny Bassham, a multiple Olympic medal winner, and Brandon Webb, a leader in training of elite special forces. Tim Gallwey is another interesting author on the subject. And I’m checking out what Bob Rotella has to say.

Overall opinion:
Most books on leadership and management are about as exciting and interesting as watching paint dry, and about as practically useful. But this book is good in terms of what one exponent applied in managing and leading people, teams, out-sized egos, egotists, and a few undiagnosed psychopaths, to extreme performance and success.

Content and Style:
Commendably clear, plain English written in an easy-to-read style.

For anyone interested in the human condition, business and the business of sport, leadership, management: yes definitely!