Dave Rave – 10 Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned From Jeff Fisher

It’s hard to actually believe that Coach Fisher is no longer at the helm of the Titans.  For 17 years he’s defined the franchise and led us through good and bad times.

I met Coach Fisher when he first moved to town; when the Titans didn’t have a stadium or a headquarters in Nashville.  He showed up one day in the school where we were meeting, and from that day until this, I have been in awe of the man, the friend, and the brother he is.

I am so sad to see him go, but I know that our city along with me, will not forget or even want to get over the influence he’s had on our lives. So as I’ve reflected on the new reality, I’ve thought about the leadership lessons Coach Fisher has taught me personally over the years.  There are so many, it is hard to limit but here are the top ten.

  1. Coach Fisher has taught me integrity. All across the board, Fisher is known as a man of integrity.  He’s known as a player’s coach.  He always does the right thing, even when it costs him. In all the recent verbiage about the conflict between his quarterback and his owner, Fisher has always taken the high road.  He doesn’t tolerate in himself what he won’t accept in others.  He realizes that when his integrity is gone, everything else is gone with it.  He’s willing to take the criticism that comes sometimes along with standing with your integrity intact.  It is one of the main reasons I think he has won the heart of all of Tennessee.
  2. Coach Fisher is a man of compassion. Few people know that Coach Fisher never cuts a player through proxy, phone call, email, or text.  He always talks to them face-to-face.  No matter who the player is or what his contribution has been to the team, he doesn’t delegate that to his coaches. Fisher is a man of compassion and understands the dreams of his players and the sacrifices they make.  There are many stories floating around about how Fisher has gone the extra mile for players whose families are in distress.  I’ve personally seen him, out of his own pocket, go to an expense to meet the needs and keep quiet about it.
  3. Coach Fisher has taught me vision. By this I mean he can see everything.  He has a vision for the organization, the players, the owner, for the NFL, for his coaches, and for everyone around him.  Across the board, he is always present and engaged.  He can see his players, their needs, their liabilities and their abilities.  He can get more out of them separately and together than anyone could ever have imagined. He has a vision of how it all comes together, so it makes him a unique leader.
  4. Coach Fisher has taught me passion.  Watch him on the sideline after a win or a touchdown, or in an intense moment.  He loses his refinement and just simply celebrates the moment like a little kid at his first game.  And it’s contagious.
  5. Coach Fisher has taught me about playing until the whistle blows. Yes, I was actually there, in person, at the Music City Miracle.  One of the things I noticed in the latter part of that game as well as many others, is that when it seemed hopeless and the other team was celebrating their victory and winding down, Fisher and his coaches were thinking and processing; always in the moment, always strategizing, never thinking of giving up.  I’ve seen him relentless at the task, no matter what the odds were against him.  As a leader, any lapse of judgment can be devastating.  As the old saying goes, “it’s never over until it’s over.”  And Coach Fisher has displayed that constantly, for 17 years.
  6. Coach Fisher has taught me balance. He has an uncanny way of handling the pressure.  You don’t stay 17 years as the head coach of a team that has moved from state to state, built a stadium and a headquarters, gone through all the ups and downs, the turmoil, and even the scandal that NFL teams do, without finding balance.
  7. Coach Fisher has taught me faith. Though he doesn’t flaunt it and wear it on his sleeve, Coach Fisher is a strong man of faith.  I’ve seen him stand on it, use it, extend it.  I’ve seen him pray with his coaches and his players day in and day out; no foolishness, a man of first-hand, solid faith.
  8. Coach Fisher has taught me loyalty. Again, he has the reputation across the league of being loyal to his players. He is loyal to his coaches and even to his ownership.  He always keeps conflict where it should be kept – inside the family where it can be dealt with positively.
  9. Coach Fisher has taught me toughness. Fisher is a tough guy.  For all the things we can say about his compassion and his caring, he can and will do the hard thing with class and integrity, and a measured toughness.
  10. Coach Fisher has taught me defiance. You don’t often think about defiance when you think about Fisher.  But he is a man of quiet, principled defiance. He simply won’t go with the popular opinion.  He will not be pushed, he will not be cajoled, and he will not be threatened. He defiantly stands for what he thinks is right, and he defiantly does what he thinks is best for the team over the long haul.  He refuses to give in to quick fixes to bolster up his reputation.

Coach Fisher, we say “good-bye,” but you’ll never be forgotten.  Your legacy and influence are intact with us.  We will pray for you, and know that your next assignment will lead you to that elusive goal – a Super Bowl.