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Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season

October 26, 2015

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Urban Meyer is an exceptional football coach, with an exceptional system for success that he lays out in his new book on leadership.

My family has, for generations, lived within about ten minutes of the Illinois/Wisconsin border—both sides of the family, both sides of the border in the tri-state area of Dubuque, Iowa. My father's side of the family is from Galena, on the Illinois side, my mother's from Shullsburg on the Wisconsin side. I was born in Rockford, Illinois, a little east of there, a city staring down Beloit, Wisconsin, from across the border. My parents moved us further east and crossed that border north into Walworth County, Wisconsin, when I was three, where they raised my three older brothers and I. So I've always felt like a bit of a duel citizen. The two cities I've lived my adult life in are Chicago and Milwaukee, further away from the border (about an hour each way), but both perched on the more natural and beautiful border of Lake Michigan.

Because of all this, my sports allegiances have always been a little mixed. Other than being a die-hard Bears fan (which means I harbor a strong dislike for the team from Green Bay), I generally root for both state's teams. I love both the Brewers and the Cubs. I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and loving the Bulls, but I've always pulled for the Bucks, too.

Though the University of Illinois hasn't given me much reason to root for any of their teams for about a decade, I still root for both them and the University of Wisconsin.

Which is all a very long way to tell you that I really don't like Ohio State. Like all sports fandom and hatred, it's irrational, but it's there, and it's real. That said, when they make it to the College Football Playoff or the Final Four, I will pull for them (so long as their not playing one of "my" teams), because at that point I will root for the conference—the best conference, the Big Ten.

And that is kind of how I felt when I heard about Urban Meyer's new book, Above the Line. I don't like Urban Meyer. I wouldn't say that about most people, and I'm not really saying it about Urban Meyer, the person. It's Urban Meyer, coach of Ohio State—and previously Florida, another school I can't stomach—that I don't like. I'm not proud of this. I know sports fandom is irrational and kind of stupid, certainly petty, even if it is powerful and often part of a family identity, passed down through the generations. But it's real. I'm sure I would like Urban Meyer the man if I actually knew him, but I don't know anything about Urban Meyer the man, or at least hadn't until picking up Above the Line. So it was with a begrudging respect that, as I started reading it, I found myself rooting for Urban Meyer, the kid from northeast Ohio who made good and returned home to lead his own state to victory. It turns out I kind of like Urban Meyer the person. He has a passion for self-improvement and helping shape those that come under his tutelage to become better—better players and better men, even better leaders in their own right.

How much do we value leadership at Ohio State? We have developed an in-depth, systematic approach to leadership training that we implement in our off-season. Tim Kight leads workshops with the entire coaching staff, and he does the same for our players. There are quizzes, skill-building exercises, and deep discussions about how the principles apply in real-life situations. It is highly focused and powerful, and it has greatly enhanced the way we build leaders and build the culture of our team. It has had a huge impact on our players' and coaches' performance.

[...]

I've always taught leadership to my teams, but now we go about it more methodically. Leadership is a skill, and like all skills it takes time and effort to develop. The timeworn quotes that have been hanging around locker rooms for years are not nearly enough.

Now I understand. Average leaders have quotes. Good leaders have a plan. Exceptional leaders have a system.

I have (and hate) to admit it, but Urban Meyer is exceptional. He has a system, and he has now shared it in Above the Line.

In my opinion, getting a book published with Portfolio is like making it to the Final Four of publishing. It's a clear indication of just how good the book is, how good the team that put the book together is. And I'm hoping it finds success not just because it is from the same "conference" I root for, but because it is a really solid and helpful book. (I would use more effusive words than solid, but he is still the coach of Ohio State.)

I'm not going to root for Ohio State to do well next Saturday, but they don't need me to; They have Urban Meyer coaching and leading them. And now you can, too, in Above the Line. And I will root for this book to do well as it hits the shelves tomorrow. I want it to finds a lot of readers, and helps them become better leaders. Hopefully you'll be one of them.

We have 20 copies available.


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