One of the most successful groups in the NFL is a tribe called the “Legion of Boom (LOB).” The LOB is the self-named Seattle Seahawks defensive secondary. Its most well-known members are cornerback Richard Sherman, strong safety Kam Chancellor, and free safety Earl Thomas III. Despite your personal opinions on their attitudes on or off the field, their success and results are undeniable. The LOB was indispensable in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII victory. Sherman, Chancellor, and Thomas alone have 12 Pro Bowl selections between them, and Sherman was the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014. Now, the defense and LOB are well on their way to being the league’s best defense for the third year in a row.
What makes this group so successful? Skill is certainly a factor, but that is a natural requirement to play in the NFL. What sets this group apart from the other 31 defensive units in the league? The answer is an established culture, unmatched across the league that serves as the foundation of this team’s success. The LOB built a culture through several deliberate steps that can easily apply to your team to improve your professional culture, to elevate your success, and take your organization to the next level:
- Passion. It is well known that the LOB plays with undeniable passion, often seen by “chips on their shoulders.” Instead of money, these men are motivated to be the absolute best. While negotiating his new contract with the team, the team’s General Manager asked Sherman who he would be as a player with a new contract. Sherman responded, “I’ll have $50 million in the bank, but I’ll play like I have $5.” As a leader, you are challenged to instill passion in your team. Show them why they should care about the team and its mission and not merely a paycheck.
- Buy-in. Passion for the team’s vision cultivates commitment. Individuals become motivated not by personal goals, but team ones. When members care for each other, their collective focus shifts to the “greater good.” I recall Thomas stating in a post-game interview that he changed the home game stadium entrances from individual introductions to a group one for the LOB. He claimed it’s not about him or any other individual; it’s about the collective group and its determination to dominate on defense. When your organization buys into a shared vision, it will desire to be remembered not as individuals, but as a team.
- Accountability. When members care about the team, they seek to make it and each other better. With sufficient professional maturity, members can help make other members of their team and themselves better. Sherman continuously claims that he cannot perform at the level he does without the other men of LOB. Team members will rise to the challenge of peer leadership and accountability. During my command, when I began to see junior Soldiers taking responsibility for each other in training task proficiency and general discipline (timeliness, uniform, grooming, PT, etc.), and not requiring their formal leaders (NCOs) to do it, I knew we achieved a high level of accountability in the company.
- Generating energy. A high performing team, committed to each other, ultimately generates its own energy; it doesn’t need to rely on external motivational factors. The LOB’s culture and energy becomes tangible through the creation of an identity in its name. Chancellor owns the responsibility of rallying the team before games; he is well known for sweating through his shirt and losing his voice while motivating the team before games even start. Leaders bring the energy to the team and cannot rely on others to motivate them. A professional team, grounded in passion, buy-in, and accountability generates its own energy naturally.
I encourage leaders to reflect on how to apply these principles to your team. How you incorporate these principles is the art and unique to each team. However, the results you will achieve are the science and will be tangible. Build a passion amongst your team members and your culture will improve. Once you have buy-in, the rest will occur naturally and you will see improved team success.
Picture credit: ESPN article, “Leading the Boom,” covering Kam Chancellor and his leadership role on the Seattle Seahawks, http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/18158453/how-kam-chancellor-became-soul-seattle-seahawks.
Sherman quotes credit: his personal blog, https://www.richardsherman25.com/blogs/blog/16885340-its-about-more-than-me.