Coaching,  Leadership,  Success Strategy

What Makes Seahawks’ Pete Carroll A Great Leader

The Seahawks began the 2020 season with a good all-around showing in a 38-25 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday (source). Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent massive wildfire through the West Coast, this victory has brought some well-deserved breeze of fresh air among the Seahawks fans in the region. Those who have been following may know that Pete Carroll, the Seahawks’ head coach for the last ten years, has been the catalyst behind the team’s rise.

It got me thinking about what corporate and business leaders can learn from him. The one answer I got is his self-awareness, clear purpose, and genuine desire to help others find it for themselves – the coach approach.

The most pivotal point of Carroll’s life was when he took a year off in 2000 to evaluate himself and his career. He believed his ideas and style would work, and he could not solve why they had not. During that time, he read a book by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, which described the importance of a clear, detailed philosophy. It gave him a powerful insight, as he mentioned in his book, Win Forever, “I embarked on a process of discovering who I was, not only as a football coach but more importantly, as a person.

As I suspected, even earlier in his career, Carroll’s way was different from the norm. Adam Jude’s article in The Seattle Times shed some light on this. Despite the veteran coaches’ overwhelming advice to be authoritative, to tell, and not to ask, Carroll genuinely asked his players, “What is your purpose?. While asking his core players to contemplate that question, he took them down his path of discovery to show them how he came to find his own answers.

Carroll, who has been very natural in asking such a question, studied psychologist Abraham Maslow and his self-actualization theories for his master’s thesis in the ’70s. Years later, he realized that by giving others the tools to discover their purpose — and understanding and fulfilling their potential — he could become a better leader and coach. The more clarity you have in being who you are, I think, the easier it is to find your way back to that, and the more consistent you can become,” he said.

Today, Carroll is revered as successful in every sense, though his career didn’t start that way. “After graduation, Carroll tried out for the Honolulu Hawaiians of the World Football League at their training camp in Riverside but did not make the team due to shoulder problems combined with his small size. To make ends meet, he found a job selling roofing materials in the Bay Area, but he found he was not good at it and soon moved on” (Wikipedia).

Bad times and struggles are not signs of weakness or incompetence; they are a natural part of human experience. I would imagine he is who he is today because of such setbacks that made him reflect and course-correct – an integral part of a coaching mindset.

Carroll seems to embody the coaching mindset described by the ICF* (open, curious, flexible, and client-centered) for professional coaches. His unusual approach to growing his team to their best reminded me of Simon Sinek’s The Infinite Game. I hope Carroll’s approach of “giving others the tools to discover their purpose” will inspire corporate and business leaders to understand and fulfill their and their people’s potential.


Are you a leader in Tech or STEM? Are you a high-performing individual? Ready to take your game to the next level? Want to get in touch with your passion? I am an executive coach with a background in tech. Send me a note to claim your 30-minute phone/Zoom session free of charge. – Sharmin Banu, Executive Coach  

*ICF– International Coaching Federation, the largest global body of professional (business, executive, leadership,…) coaches with over 30K members spanned across 140 countries.

Feature image By Anthony Quintano - Flickr: Super Bowl XLVIII (48) New York New Jersey, CC BY 2.0

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