Tony Dungy Leadership Research Paper

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In figuring out who I wanted to write this paper on, many different leaders popped into my mind. I knew I wanted to choose a “sports figure” because playing sports has always been a huge part of my life. Every coach I have had, regardless of the sport, has always been a leader in my eyes so I thought it would be fitting to choose a coach. Coach Tony Dungy is said to be one of the greatest to ever coach the game of football. I would have to agree with that statement. I have been a fan of Tony Dungy ever since he became the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2002.

I look up to, and respect him as a coach and as a person. I wanted to write this paper about him in hopes of learning more about his leadership style and what he thinks it takes to be a leader. Since I aspire to be like him as a coach, I want to leave a lasting positive impression upon the young individuals that I teach. I believe that that is exactly what Tony Dungy did for all of the players he has coached. He used his abilities, skills, values, and ethics to inspire, motivate and coach his teams on to victory.

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Not only did I chose to write about Tony Dungy because of his leadership on the field, but how his leadership has always carried off the field as well. Tony Dungy believes that in order to be a great leader you have to not only know where you are going, but know who you are following (Brown). Coach Dungy follows Jesus Christ. “If people didn’t know me and only knew my public persona, what I’d want them to know is everything that I do, I do for the Glory of Lord,” Dungy states (Brown). “Because of my Christian faith, that’s who I am. I wasn’t always that way, but I’m very proud that I am.

I would tell people that I’m the same person. I have ups and downs. I have negative thoughts, negative actions. I don’t win every game. I have the same issues that everybody else has. What I’ve tried to do is use my faith in my job and let my faith direct me” (Brown). I believe his faith is the most admirable trait he possesses when it comes to him being a great leader. Dungy says that we are all role models to someone in this world, and we can all have an impact – for good (Dungy & Whitaker 301). Personally, I want to be able to say I made an impact in someone’s life.

In researching Tony Dungy, I have found ways to help me in my life so that I can impact others through coaching and displaying the certain traits, behaviors, and skills needed in order to be a successful leader. Some say great leaders are born; others say they are made. Coach Dungy believes it’s a mixture of both (Brown). He believes that leaders are born with certain traits that make it possible to lead, while also believing that leaders can learn the behavior needed in order to be a leader. This is fitting in that we are in The Contingency Era.

The primary assumption of the contingency view is that the personality, style, or behavior of effective leaders depends on the different situations leaders find themselves in (Nahavandi 65). Tony Dungy follows this approach in suggesting that there is no one best way to lead (Nahavandi 65). In more recent approaches to leadership, the focus is starting to be directed on the relationship between leaders and followers and on various aspects of charismatic and visionary leadership (Nahavandi 65). I know that Mr. Dungy is very charismatic. He has that likeable factor and a smile that just brightens a room.

He understands that most people do not respond to yelling and negativity and therefore you will hardly ever hear him raise his voice to his players (Dungy & Whitaker 105). He values the relationships he has in his life and throughout the course of his book, Quiet Strength, he will say name after name and how each of them fit into his life. Tony Dungy understands that good leadership is about people, not the bottom line. He understands that in order to be successful leader you have to have followers who are willing to buy into your way of doing things and are willing to follow. Dungy also realizes it takes more than just his relationship with is followers to be successful, and that he needs to display certain traits and skills to help him along the way. In his book, Quiet Strength, he talks about his life growing up and of him coaching. He talks about the different traits and skills he has worked on throughout his life to take him to the top. He has always had self-confidence to succeed. Here, he explains how his parents always pushed him to follow his dreams and that he could do anything he set his mind to (Dungy & Whitaker 8). Dungy also displays traits of being dependable and energetic. He assumes responsibility for his actions.

He thanks his parents for his upbringing and realizes how lucky he was to grow up in such a stern, but loving home (Dungy & Whitaker 16). Coach Dungy also describes his ability to adapt to different situations in life. I absolutely love the fact that he depends on God to guide him through the different obstacles he has had to overcome in his life. It is not often that you find a coach that is that dependant on God and understands that sports are just a game and that it is not the end of the world if you lose. Tony Dungy obtained a lot of his skills from attending the University of Minnesota (Dungy & Whitaker 28).

There he was able to grow his intelligence and become more creative, tactful, organized, and knowledgeable about groups (Dungy & Whitaker 28). In describing Tony Dungy’s leadership abilities and skills, a lot of different elements came into play. Dungy’s heredity played a role in developing his leadership ability. He came from a family where both of his parents graduated from college and who were successful in their job fields (Dungy & Whitaker 7). His environment also played a role. Dungy’s parents made sure he grew up in a good atmosphere where he was not going to be influenced by negativity because of his race (Dungy & Whitaker 11).

Dungy’s abilities and skills, along with his personality traits, values, and demographic factors, have helped to determine his leadership style and behaviors (Nahavandi 103). Demographic factors, such as being an African American male, being educated, and being religious, are part of Tony Dungy’s individual difference characteristics that affect his individual behavior and leadership style (Nahavandi 103). Every leader has a vision. They have a goal set and their specific way how they want to reach it. Tony Dungy’s vision is simple; it is to be one of excellence (Dungy & Whitaker 125). Tony Dungy feels very strongly about his vision in life.

He tells his players, “The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. Vision will ignite the fire of passion that fuels out commitment to do whatever it takes to achieve excellence. Only vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. Vision has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our vision is what we become in life” (Dungy & Whitaker 125). His vision for his players was for them to play their best every time they hit the field, whether it was in practice, regular season, or the Super Bowl (Dungy & Whitaker 125).

Tony Dungy’s vision is about touching other people’s lives and about building a legacy (Dungy & Whitaker 301). Regan Upshaw, a former player for Tony Dungy, is a perfect example on how his legacy has touched the lives of others (Dungy & Whitaker 299). Upshaw remembers his coach talking about responsibility and doing things right and the importance of the off-the-field stuff (Dungy & Whitaker 299). Upshaw states that he had no clue what Coach Dungy was talking about at the time, but now that he is an adult he understands and is thankful that his Coach was on him about “the stuff that did not matter at the time” (Dungy & Whitaker 299).

As a coach, Dungy’s main goal is to help his players achieve their full potential (Brown). His vision for this is simple. Tony Dungy states, “I want them to leave here as better people and better men than when they came” (Brown). Coach Dungy expects his players to not only succeed on the field, but also in their personal life. I think part of being a role model as a coach is going the extra mile to help your players achieve excellence in every aspect of their lives. Values are long-lasting beliefs about what is worthwhile and desirable and ethics are a person’s concept of right and wrong (Nahavandi 108 – 110).

Dungy’s values and ethics have taken him a long way in his life and career. He is a devout Christian and values his relationship with God. Dungy had once thought about leaving football to pursue a career in prison ministry (Mahoney). He is active in volunteering for community service organizations, and is a speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (Mahoney). Dungy values his friendships and family. He lets his players know that his family comes first. Tony Dungy comes from a strong Christian background and knows the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

He displays a strong work ethic and has always held his head high, even when faced with adversity. When he was let go as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers he did not give up (Brown). Dungy knew that everything happens for a reason and that God had something different in mind for him to do (Dungy & Whitaker 195). He then became the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and in 2006 won the Super Bowl. Tony Dungy became the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl. He used to receive painful letters in the mail that were plagued with insensitive words of hate (Dungy & Whitaker 296).

Instead of responding with hateful words back, he pressed on with the knowledge that life is not always fair and that God would help him to heal the pain from the hate (Dungy & Whitaker 297). Dungy believes that winning football games does not make you successful. He uses God’s Word to define success (Dungy & Whitaker 143). He believes that the definition of success is one centered on a relationship with Jesus Christ and a love for God that allows us to love and serve others (Dungy & Whitaker 143).

Coach Dungy describes how he views success by stating, “So if they come and play for me, win a lot of games, make a ton of money, but they don’t leave as better people, I haven’t done my total job. Winning is what we get paid for but I think my job is more than that” (Brown). Dungy measures success by how he affects ones’ life instead of measuring it by how many football games he has won. Power changes people. Having the authority to influence others and being able to successfully do so transforms how one thinks about oneself and others and how one acts (Nahavandi 145). Tony Dungy utilizes power by staying grounded.

He uses his influence on others in a positive way by showing them that God has the power above all others (Dungy & Whitaker 301). He displays legitimate power, expert power, and referent power. Legitimate power is based on a person holding a formal position (Nahavandi 150). Dungy was the head coach of an NFL football team so others complied and accepted the authority of his position. Expert power is based on a person’s expertise, competence, and information in a certain area (Nahavandi 150). Dungy had been coaching for over twenty years and knew a lot about the game (Mahoney).

Referent power is based on a person’s attractiveness to and the friendship with others (Nahavandi 150). Dungy had respect from his players. Because he had these different individual sources of power, he had a commitment from his followers. Commitment happens when followers welcome the influence process and accept it as reasonable and legitimate (Nahavandi 146). Power is essential to effective leadership. However, there is a dark side to power when people abuse it. Abuse involves taking advantage of one’s power for personal gain (Nahavandi 157). I am happy to say that Tony Dungy never took advantage of his position to gain something in life.

He has worked hard for everything he has achieved. He treats people with the upmost respect. Dungy always signs autographs and takes pictures with fans (Dungy & Whitaker 300). He never ignores them and thinks he is better than them at all. This all relates back to his Christian faith. Dungy says his purpose in life is simply to glorify God. He says you have to be careful to not let the pursuit of our life’s goals, no matter how important they seem, cause us to lose sight of our purpose (Dungy & Whitaker 301). He uses his power to be a positive influence to those surrounding him.

One of the most important components of leading change is providing inspiration and vision for your followers (Nahavandi 290). Other criteria essential for change are empowerment and confidence in followers, flexibility, teamwork, and cooperation (Nahavandi 290). Tony Dungy provides both inspiration and vision. It is said that a leader with inspiration can provide it to his followers and thus reduce the resistance to change (Nahavandi 290). Most people are not comfortable with change. They get used to things being a certain way and do not know how to respond when everything changes. Dungy embraces change.

He believes that maybe God had something entirely different planned for him (Dungy & Whitaker 198). Tony Dungy knew that there was going to come a day when he wasn’t going to be able to coach anymore. Especially as an NFL coach, he knew that jobs and contracts change every year. He had to be ready to accept whatever change God threw at him (Dungy & Whitaker 197). Tony Dungy also instills confidence in his players. He gives them the tools needed in order to play their best every game. He praises them (Dungy & Whitaker 120). Coach Dungy tells his players that they are the best and that they will win.

He focuses on the teamwork that is needed in order to be a successful group. Dungy does not just single out one player but addresses the team as a whole (Dungy & Whitaker 120). Tony Dungy was a part of many different football teams, from the ones he played on to the many he has coached. Each year the teams changed. In high school and college, players graduate and you have new players coming into the schools, and in the NFL players get drafted and traded every year. Dungy needed to be able to adapt to change in order to stay on top of his game. Overall I think he displayed stability in being able to handle the changing teams.

In evaluating Tony Dungy’s job performance, it is difficult for me to size him up. If I were to grade him based on a ten point scale he would be off the scale at a twenty. I believe he has always gone above and beyond in his life to maintain the relationships he has with others and with God. He values those relationships. Dungy builds team moral and leads his team to victory not only on the field, but off as well. He aspires for the men who play for him to be quality people. He wants them all to understand the big picture. It’s not always about how many football games you win or how many championship rings you have.

Tony Dungy believes all of it means nothing if you don’t follow the right way of doing things, God’s way of doing things. He gives his players the tools needed in order to succeed in life, yet it is up to that individual to act out and use those tools to become a better person. In conclusion, writing this paper only makes me appreciation Tony Dungy that much more. After reading his book, Quiet Strength, I see how he really understands what it takes to be a successful leader. He knows that it takes certain abilities and traits, some that he was born with and others he has developed, in order to be a leader.

I also see how he understands change and has had to deal with that along with adversity and has always held his head through it all. He is not ashamed of who he is and is very proud of his faith. Even though Dungy is a great leader, he looks up to God as his true leader. He believes that his trust and faith in God has gotten him to where he is at in his life. Just like any other coach, he has had his fair share of ups and downs (Brown). It has always been his faith in God that has him always looking to the bright side of things. He is such an inspiration to me and I am so glad that I was able to show it by writing this paper on him.

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