Kindness under pressure
The young new coach for Clemson, Dabo Swinney, has a compelling story, having been a near orphan, taken in as a child and raised by the former Clemson football coach. He’s earnest, likable, and humble.
Dabo grew up to become the assistant football coach at Clemson …and then was promoted last year to head coach. Unfortunately, they lost more games than they won in his first season at the helm. So when they started off winning 8 out of 8 games this fall, climbing rapidly in the national rankings, you can imagine the mounting enthusiasm. However, on one game a few weeks ago, they lost to Georgia Tech…a game they were highly favored to win. With a lot of fumbles, missed calls, and interceptions…it wasn’t pretty.
What did I take away from that? Certainly the loss was a solemn one. Clemson was one of only 10 teams to be unbeaten until then. For 8 weeks it was thrilling to see Dabo held in such high regard. The whole state had been shaking to the thrill of it all. But what I remember most was…in the middle of the Georgia game, when Clemson was behind by two touchdowns, one of the replacement players made two serious errors. When the player came out of the game, Swinney put his hands on the young man’s head, looked in his eyes, and talked to him in an encouraging supportive way. He patted him on the back before the guy slumped to the bench.
That’s what I took away. In the tremendous stress of the moment—especially when blame and anger could have been thrown at the player—the coach was a rare and kind human being.
In the worst of times—in the best of times—and especially in a relationship when it feels like your whole life is on the line…what kind of human being are you?
I seriously doubt there isn’t one of us who hasn’t struggled with that one. But each time we are under stress, it is a new opportunity to change our reactions for the better. People in positions where their reactions can and do affect a whole lot of other people need to incorporate these changes a whole lot faster, it doesn’t matter less whether you are a teacher, preacher, team leader or head of department or a family, how you react under stress…. whether you play the blame game…. or calmly reassure and go on to damage control… will not only secure your own position with your team but goes on to show those who are watching what sort of leader material you have inside.
There are some leaders who inspire their followers to the point where they’ll walk through fire for them. And some where the followers will soon turn into deserters out of frustration. I have worked and known people who fall in both group and I have found that when loyalty is earned with kindness & consideration, it is invariably by a person who’s own moral compass is pointed due North. What characteristics have you noticed the most in either group of leader?