Vince Lombardi

By in Leadership, Sports Leaders

Leaders can be found in a plethora of settings around the world and can rise up from the lowest corners of the earth. These leaders all have different philosophies and revolutionary styles that make them unique and better than others. Being a good leader can start at birth or be a role taken on during a moment in one’s lifetime. Leaders can be found in fields like military, political or sports. All of these fields require a very strong type of leader who can take on enormous responsibilities bigger than that person. Being a leader is certainly not for everyone and few people can master the craft of being an excellent leader that people will remember forever. Leaders like Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and Theodore Roosevelt executed the art of leadership excellently; people and history books will remember them forever. There is different leadership styles people can be described as. Some leaders like Joseph Stalin choose to ignore their followers and force their will on everyone. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Junior listen to their followers and reflect on their actions in order to make progressive change. Vince Lombardi is the perfect exhibit of a leader who inspires other people to become greater than they could ever imagine. Vince Lombardi was one of the best leaders in his time and inspired people to overcome great obstacles and achieve the greatest victory. Vince Lombardi was an inspirational and encouraging leader who valued success and victory more than anything else his style of leadership started when he was young and left behind a legacy of greatness and achievement.

Vince Lombardi was born in South Brooklyn in 1913 into a devout Catholic household. His father was a meat distributor and Vincent was not born into a rich family. This upbringing taught Vince Lombardi to value everything at a young age. Vincent grew up and considered a life in the priesthood but that quickly passed after discovering a different aspiration and love; playing the great game of football which would start Vince’s lifelong involvement with the sport. Vince Lombardi shined at fullback and was the star player on his high school football team. Vince Lombardi learned essential leadership lesson while playing football including team work and the concept of earning your own rewards. “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual”[1]. Vince Lombardi said this because he knew without the entire effort from everybody nothing would be achieved. It is said that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link and Vince Lombardi was a strong believer in that term. The bonds forged by a football team are as strong as steel and can never be broken. Vince Lombardi really saw his potential in leadership on the football field especially as he moved on to college football. Vince Lombardi played his college football at Fordham University and excelled on the football field yet again. Vince Lombardi received a football scholarship to play for Fordham and quickly was noticed as a highly aggressive and hard working player. Vince Lombardi has a drive inside him to always be the best at whatever he was involved in which attributed to his success later on in life. Lombardi played offensive in college which he was extremely undersized to play but he made up for it in will power and determination. In his final game he lost to NYU but still came away with a lesson. Do not ever underestimate your adversary because it will come back to bite you. After graduation Vince Lombardi tried his hand at law school at night while working a job during the day. Again this drive in Lombardi pushed him to try and accomplish high goals but he soon changed his mind and had another plan in mind for his future. Vince Lombardi got an assistant coaching job at Fordham University. This opened a door for Vince Lombardi that made the sky the limit for his future. Vince Lombardi spent 2 years at Fordham but got an opportunity that he could not pass up, coaching at prestigious West Point Military Academy. Vince Lombardi was put in charge of the offensive line and this point in his coaching career was where he would develop his leadership skills. “He was generous in helping those who helped the team, and his coaching techniques evoked admiration and great loyalty from his players.”[2] Vince Lombardi was tough and tireless coach that pushed his players further than they thought they could go. Vince Lombardi had a gift of being hard on players when he needed to be in order to weed out who was really committed but he also could be compassionate when necessary. This essential balance made Vince Lombardi into the model for a sports leader in this country. Vince Lombardi’s fire and desire to be the best and get the best from his player is what got him to his successful position.

Lombardi’s jump to the NFL was completely attributed to his work ethic and tireless attitude. Vince Lombardi would simply never settle and was never satisfied until victory was achieved. Lombardi started his NFL career with the New York Giants as an assistant coach and turned the program around. In his 5 years there he accomplished winning seasons in all 5 campaigns and won the league title in 1956. Lombardi accomplished what seemed impossible and turned a group of losers into champions. This would be the start of a winning tradition that would carry on with Lombardi for the rest of his life. Vince Lombardi also introduced the idea of zone blocking as well while coaching for the New York Giants. This idea went against the normal offensive lineman strategy of being assigned a man to block during the play. In this new scheme the lineman would block a certain area and the running back would go wherever the hole was. This idea seemed radical and was looked down on by coaches around the NFL. This new tactic would bring his next team great success on the field.

Vince Lombardi’s aspiration was to become a head coach and control his own team. After applying to many collegiate and professional teams for the spot Vince was denied by many including Notre Dame and Wake Forest. Finally Lombardi got his break and became the head coach of a disheartened Green Bay Packers team. The previous season was a complete disaster and the players were down on themselves. Vince Lombardi had taken on a great task of turning a group of non-believers into champions. Lombardi had already done this with the New York Giants and was prepared to do it yet again. “He would explain everything to the lowest student or player, not moving on until everyone understood. With the Packers he would break down his offense in minute detail first for his assistant coaches, then his players.”[3] Vince Lombardi had a way of being able to explain his methods to anybody and would make sure everybody involved was on the same page before continuing on. Vince wanted to make sure the team was exactly that, a team, that could work together to achieve the ultimate goal of a championship.  “What a great teacher does is make you want to please him or her. I’ll never forget what he taught me. That was his greatest gift.”3 Vince Lombardi lead in such a way that eventually his team wanted to work as hard for him as he did for the team. Vince Lombardi instilled his own personal drive that he had gotten so far in life with to his own players and that was the special thing about the Green Bay Packers. The first season under Lombardi was an outstanding improvement and produced a 7-5 record compared to last year’s 1-10 record. The next season was even more success when the Packers captured their first conference championship in over 10 years. “Win your players’ hearts and they will follow you anywhere”[4]. Vince Lombardi was sold on the idea that once the players believed in the coach they would do anything for that coach and in turn believe in themselves.


Vince Lombardi retired from football with a 105-35-6 record and never coached a team with a losing record. Under Lombardi the Green Bay Packers would win three NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. Overall the Packers were a championship team in five out of seven seasons and have the most NFL championships of any team in NFL history. Lombardi was the most notorious coach in Packer history and a statue of him is in front of Lambeau field for all the fans to see. He would finish his career with the Redskins and even turned that team into winners.

Vince Lombardi is one of football’s greatest leaders of all time and had a natural ability to lead inside him that was exposed throughout his lifelong bond with football. Vince Lombardi was a leader unlike any other. After his only postseason loss in 1959 Lombardi swore to his team that they would never lose a championship game again and the Packers never did under his watch. Vince Lombardi always had the right things to say to his players in any situation and that’s what made him great. “Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing”1. Vince Lombardi knew that the key to being a winner was inside all of his players. Every man on the roster was capable of being a winner just some did not know it. Lombardi led with such confidence his players and the people around him soaked up some of it. Lombardi’s style of inspiring other was unique especially in the coaching world. Whereas most coaches would beat their players down to try and get in their head, Vince Lombardi would coach his players and show them how to win. Vince Lombardi also played no favorites and for that he was also praised. Whoever was the best player would play no matter if he was a high paid star or just a hardworking player in practice who never gave up. Lombardi instilled the mindset into his players that winning was their only option and they were either champions or losers. The players looked up to Vince Lombardi so much that he was rarely questioned and they would do whatever he asked because he has earned their complete trust. This was essential in becoming the leader he wanted to be. Trust is a very precious thing that can be ruined easily. A common phrase football coaches say is, all I want is all you got, this means the coach simply wants your complete and total effort and he will take you to the championship. The players that played for Lombardi bought into his coaching style and leadership style although it was not easy. Vince Lombardi was a firm believer in the mindset that the hardest working team would win the game and put his team through extreme practices and workout to harden them. At the time the players questioned Lombardi but they still went with it anyways because they believed in what he was doing and wanted to be a part of it. The hard part about being a leader in the coaching position is that the player can always just quit. Vince Lombardi knew how to push his players to the edge but not over it. This is a fine line for coaches that many struggle with. This hardnosed style of leading brought the players to a point however where they knew they were the best and confidence is a key on the football field. The Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi and it is the highest award a team can get in the NFL and is given to the winner of the Super Bowl every year. “Lombardi wasn’t just a good tactician. He was a psychologist” [5]. Vince Lombardi had the unique ability among coaches to get inside the head of his players and address their real problems. Lombardi could do this because he was a player himself and knew what it was like to be coached. He knew how to coach his players in a way they would understand and made everything as basic as possible. Lombardi was such a great leader because he would give players the confidence they needed and they would take it and run with it. The players could be level with him and get a straightforward answer back every time whether the response was what they were looking for or not. Lombardi started out in working class neighborhood and had to work his way up to the top through the ranks.

Anybody in the Port Richmond community can become the next Lombardi if they want to. Maybe not through the football outlet but there is large potential in the small business world of Port Richmond. It would take hard work just like it did for Vince but it could be done. Like Vince Lombardi did for his players, someone in the community needs to make believers out of the community that they can get back to the top again. Port Richmond can be restored to its former glory but it will take hard work. Similar to the hard work it takes to win a championship, the championship for Port Richmond would be an economy on the rise. Once that happens the rising economy can snowball into other things and bring back the “glow” that Port Richmond once had around it. The next leader for Port Richmond is in the shadows right now but will come out sooner or later. Someone who can do what Vince did for the Packers; take a losing team (Port Richmond) and turn it into the championship team it is capable of doing. This leader will have to be bold and inspiring like Vince Lombardi but will get the job done. Port Richmond’s big problem is the racial divide among African Americans and Hispanics which make up most of the neighborhood. The racial tension came to a head when a Hispanic day laborer was stabbed to death and the suspected killers were Black. However a group is focused on ending this racism and hatred. “We need to understand that we are in this fight together and we aren’t getting anywhere by fighting,”[6] This youth organized group can have a “Lombardi” in it right now that has the skills and drive to make Port Richmond a desirable place again. All it takes is one person with the want and determination to do it.

Leaders can have many different styles but their main goal is usually similar. Most leaders want their movement, group, or organization to be successful. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. wanted equality, George Patton wanted victory in war, and Vince Lombardi wanted to win the greatest game in America, Being a good leader is about inspiring the people under you to go above and beyond their duty. Leaders like Vince Lombardi instill their work ethic into others and give others the confidence to believe in themselves that they can be successful. They can be champions, or on the winning side of a war or even bring an area that is down and out to its former glory. Leadership isn’t just one person giving instructions to other and they follow. Leadership takes critical thinking and understanding in order to be a success. Vince Lombardi is the prime example of how to lead and it shows in his outstanding track record of turning losers into winners. People who never thought they could win were inspired and encouraged by Vince Lombardi and they won the games themselves. That is the goal of being a great and unforgettable leader, a goal that Vince Lombardi most certainly achieved in his lifetime; a lifetime that none of his players or anybody else will ever forget.