Vince Lombardi: A Guide to Leadership Principles

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“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” — this iconic phrase, brought into the spotlight by Vince Lombardi, reverberates through time as a mantra for success, both on and off the field. In “When Pride Still Mattered,” David Maraniss offers a vibrant, profound, and well-researched biography of Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest coaches to ever grace the football field. Explore the enduring wisdom of one of football’s greatest coaches through this guide on Vince Lombardi Leadership Principles. As the CEO of, I find myself naturally drawn to Lombardi’s wisdom. His journey, from his humble beginnings to becoming a legendary coach, is rich with lessons that extend beyond the football field and into the boardroom. Lombardi’s techniques don’t just underline the importance of sports as a teaching ground for life’s critical lessons, they also illuminate the corridors of successful business leadership. Lombardi was not content to merely win championships; he was committed to sharing his insights far and wide. From executive meetings to sales seminars, he inspired those striving for success with his own well-earned knowledge. In this post, I aim to distill the essence of Vince Lombardi’s wisdom, as conveyed in his motivational talks from the 1960s. Consider this a guide for you and your leadership team, an inspiration for driving success daily in your sports business. The credit for these insights, of course, rests with David Maraniss, the author of “When Pride Still Mattered.” Lombardi’s teachings were anchored in seven core principles, which he famously referred to as his “Seven Blocks of Granite” in the philosophy of success. Let’s delve into each of these blocks, beginning with an excerpt from one of Lombardi’s last public speeches in 1970.

Lombardi’s Seven Blocks to Success

1. The Essence of the Game

Lombardi saw football as a reflection of life, demanding the same “Spartan qualities of sacrifice, self-denial, dedication, and fearlessness.” From football, we can glean what it takes to be successful in life itself.

2. The Virtue of Competition

Lombardi championed what he termed “the American zeal” to compete and win. He recognized competition as the crucible where we discover our better selves, whether in sports, politics, or business. Competition, he believed, nurtures “a spirit of vitality and enterprise” in all of us.

3. The Pursuit of Perfection

Lombardi urged everyone to strive for perfection. While acknowledging human limits, he insisted that we should work toward perfection by employing our God-given talents to the fullest. In Lombardi’s words: “While complete victory can never be won, it must be pursued with all of one’s might.”

4. Balance between Freedom and Authority

Lombardi astutely observed that society’s push for individual freedoms should not destabilize the essential structures of authority and discipline. He warned that too much freedom without authority can lead us close to chaos.

5. The Importance of Discipline

For Lombardi, effective leaders understand the dual nature of human desire: the longing for independence balanced by a need for direction. He believed that a disciplined approach is key to resolving this paradox.

6. The Essence of Leadership

Lombardi famously declared that “Leaders are made, not born.” He envisioned a leader as one who identifies with their team and champions a culture of loyalty and mutual respect. For Lombardi, leadership is not about imposing authority but about inspiring trust, affection, and a collaborative spirit.

7. Character and Will

In Lombardi’s view, character trumps intellect. He revered qualities like energy, strong will, purpose, determination, sacrifice, love, loyalty, fearlessness, and humility. He believed that “the perfectly disciplined will” distinguishes great men from the rest. Closing Thoughts Lombardi’s insights, though delivered in a different era, are timeless. They resonate with the contemporary leader as strongly as they did with the audience of his time. As we navigate the complexities of modern sports business, Vince Lombardi’s Leadership Principles found in the “Seven Blocks of Granite” offer a robust foundation on which to build our strategies for success. So, to all the leaders out there, in the spirit of Vince Lombardi: may we approach our roles with the grace of a well-played game, the passion of a dedicated coach, and the integrity of a true sportsman. Let’s win, not just in our businesses, but in the grander game of life itself. Explore more motivational sports business articles on the Upper Hand Playbook here.
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