Tony Dungy: Be More Than Successful

Former NFL coach's s journey to success and significance wasn’t always easy.

July 1, 2014

The Super Bowl-winning head coach was regularly passed over for head coaching jobs in the 1990s because people didn’t think his leadership style would work in the National Football League.

The former defensive back, who also won a Super Bowl as a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the late 1970s, said he was never the type to scream and holler at players the way many coaches do.

“I had to decide whether I was going to stay true to my beliefs or take the suggestion of some people who said, ‘Maybe you’d better become a little more aggressive, raise your voice a little more, and be more forceful.’ But that wasn’t me,” said Dungy, who spoke at the 2014 CSCU Solutions Conference in May.

Eventually, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Dungy in 1996. He helped turn around the franchise from a loser to a perennial playoff team. Later he led the Colts over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

After winning the big game, Dungy said the people who once viewed his leadership characteristics—respect and doing the right thing—as weaknesses began to see them as strengths.

“If you do things the right way, eventually you will be rewarded,” Dungy said. “Be who you are, do what you do, and don’t worry about the criticism.”

So, what’s Dungy’s winning leadership formula? “Develop relationships. Find out about people and do things that help them be the best that they can be,” said Dungy, now a studio analyst for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. “The best leaders I have been around are people who can connect with the people they are leading.”

And embrace your guiding principles.

“Do the right thing all the time. Put your principles first, no matter how big or small the decision,” Dungy said. “You never know which one is going to be a defining decision.”

He explained that decisions you agonize over might not amount to much, while decisions you make in a split second might change your life.

Strive to be bigger than yourself, Dungy added. “Going that one step farther can make a difference in someone’s life. That, to me, is the difference between success and significance.”