The Super Bowl – the championship game of the American National Football League –  is this Sunday, February 1. That got me thinking about past coaches who have won the Super Bowl.

The coach who sticks out in my mind the most is Bill Walsh. He coached 3 Super Bowl winners for the San Francisco 49ers.

What could be even more impressive is his legacy, shown through his “coaching tree.” Look at his assistants who became head coaches, and their assistants who became head coaches, and their assistants who became head coaches. One tree is here but is a little outdated. Here’s another example that is a little bigger, a little more up-to-date as well:

Six coaches from the tree have 8 Super Bowl wins between them (Holmgren, Gruden, Shanahan, Seifert, Billick, Dungy), still others have gotten to the Super Bowl, but lost (Callahan, Fassel, Fisher, Fox, Reid, L. Smith, Wyche; Holmgren also has Super Bowl loses).

A lot of former and current NFL head coaches are on the Walsh Coaching Tree.

You can even trace one of the coaches of this year’s Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, back to Walsh. Tomlin was an assistant under Tony Dungy, who was an assistant under Dennis Green, who was an assistant under Bill Walsh. Oddly enough, Dennis Green helped build, shape, and draft much of the present roster of the other team in this year’s Super Bowl, the Arizona Cardinals, before he was fired in 2007.

That’s an impressive legacy. Consider though, that Walsh is a branch off of legendary coach Paul Brown’s coaching tree – who are others on that tree?

  • Don Shula (2 Super Bowl victories, most career NFL wins),
  • Bud Grant (4 Super Bowl loses with Minnesota Vikings),
  • Weeb Ewbank (won a Super Bowl coaching the New York Jets, what many consider the most important game in NFL history), and
  • Chuck Knoll (4 Super Bowl victories).

Another Bill Walsh legacy that I just found out: Walsh pushed the cause for black coaches in the NFL. He worked with the NFL office to help black NFL assistants prepare for being head coaches by creating the Minority Coaching Fellowship.

With a new U.S. president, that also got me thinking about legacy. Bush guiding the U.S. through the 9/11 terrorist attacks and not having a terrorist attack on American soil after 9/11 could be one of his lasting legacies. Financial support of AIDS research could be another legacy. Troubles in Iraq or a bad economy are more than likely what many would consider to be his legacy, at least right now.

Will Barack Obama’s legacy be largely that he is the first African American president of the United States, or will some act, some policy, some deed, be his legacy?

Research conducted at CCL found that a majority of the 182 leaders surveyed wanted their legacy to be around an improved organizational culture or financial stability. Development/retention of employees and enhancing business operations were not that far behind.

What is your leadership legacy? Will it be the people who worked for you or who you mentored? Will it be some act or decision you make? Will it be that you averted disaster or brought prosperity? Will it be that you raised a family, were an outstanding husband, father, wife, mother? Will it be your ethical nature?

Let’s hear your thoughts – how do you as a leader want to be remembered? What is your leadership legacy? I look forward to seeing what you write.

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