Coaching Analysis: Mike Ditka
There may never be a better description of the man named Mike Ditka than that of his childhood friend, Dan Britza: “His temper is legendary, his intensity is legendary, he is the ultimate motivator, he is the ultimate passionate man” (NFL Network, 2011). Ditka, better known as Iron Mike or Da Coach, has lived a life completely engrossed in football. He was a superbowl champion as a player in 1963 with the Chicago Bears; a superbowl champion as an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys in 1977; and a superbowl champion as the head coach for Chicago in 1985. Ditka’s work ethic and unwillingness to accept failure led him to become a top college prospect at the University of Pittsburgh, the eventual first round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1961, and was the first tight end ever to be elected into the pro football hall of fame. As a Coach, Mike Ditka's style reflected the way he played the game; with reckless abandon and a ferociousness unmatched.
This analysis of Mike Ditka as a coach will examine his leadership characteristics and the effectiveness of Ditka’s coaching using the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) to explore his strengths and weaknesses in the five practices of exemplary leaders as stated by Kouzes and Pozner (2006).
Leadership can be defined as a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential. All leaders essentially strive to complete the same tasks: provide direction, set goals, make a vision, build a positive environment, instill values, motivate, resolve conflict, and teach. James Kouzes and Barry Posner (2002) developed a survey that asked people which characteristics of leaders they look for, admire and would willingly follow. The results of the study showed that people preferred the following characteristics: honest, forward-looking, competent, inspiring, intelligent, fair-minded, broad-minded, supportive, straightforward, dependable, cooperative, determined, imaginative, ambitious, courageous, caring, mature, loyal, self-controlled, and independent. While the possession of all of these traits is not necessary for a leader to be successful, it is believed that having the majority of these traits is a good indicator of a leader’s potential. Mike Ditka is a clear example of a coach who does not possess all of the traits listed in the survey, yet still enjoyed a large amount of success as a National Football League head coach. Mike Ditka was known as a motivator. One of Ditka’s players, Mike Singletary, said this of Ditka’s leadership – “As a coach, Ditka is not known as a great technician. His strength is that he's a great motivator. He's good at finding the red button in each of us. He'll pat a player on the back, kick his butt, even play with his sense of paranoia” (People Magazine, 1987). In reference to Kowses and Posners’ characteristics, one could make a strong argument that Mike Ditka’s success as a coach can be attributed to his honest, straightforward approach to coaching. He was determined to win, ambitious, and courageous; he told his players that they would win and they did. Jimbo Covert, another of Ditka’s players stated: “He makes us think, Hey, we can go out and play with anybody, He tells us: Hey, you’re no different than teams that win the Super Bowl or go to the playoffs every year. You’ve got the same personnel, the same talent. You’re just the same as them. All you have to do is go out and beat ‘em. He makes you believe because he’s been there before. He’s a winner” (Chicago Tribune, 1985).
The Leadership Practices Inventory is a tool developed by Kouzes and Posner that measures 30 behaviors that leaders engage in when they are performing at their very best. The more frequently leaders exhibit these behaviors, the more one attribues to them the qualities of...
References: NFL Films (2011). A Football Life: Mike Ditka.
NFL.com a football life 2011
NFL Head Coaches: A Biographical Dictionary, 1920-2011 - John Maxymuk - Google Books
GET MOTIVATED! : Bear Coach Mike Ditka Tells You How in His New Video - Los Angeles Times
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