Famous Leader: Herb Brooks
This paper will discuss Herb Brooks, Head Coach of the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team that won the gold medal, including a win over the Soviet Union. The paper will discuss Herb Brooks’ background, leadership traits, styles of leadership, and the outcome of his methods.
Famous Leader: Herb Brooks
Herb Brooks was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota on August 5, 1937. Growing up Brooks played hockey. He had his first championship while playing on the St. Paul Johnson squad in the state finals in 1955. After high school, Brooks played college hockey under Coach John Mariucci at the University of Minnesota. He continued to play for University of Minnesota from 1955-1959. After college, he continued to play. In 1960 he was a member of the Olympic hockey team. He unfortunately was the last player to be cut from the team right before the games began. After being released from the team, the United States Olympic hockey team went on to win the gold. This is said to be a major motivation for an already driven person. He then went on to play on the United States National and Olympic hockey teams from 1962-1970. He set the record of playing for a total of eight United States National and Olympic hockey teams. This included the 1964, the next Olympic hockey team after being cut, and the 1968 Olympic hockey team (The Famous People).
After finishing his time as a player, Brooks moved into a coaching role. He started as an Assistant Coach for the University of Minnesota in 1970. The next season he moved on to the Minnesota Junior Stars in 1971. From there he was the Head Coach for the University of Minnesota from 1972 to 1979. During his time as Head Coach for the University of Minnesota, he took his teams to three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships. He coached 296 games for the Gophers with a record of 175 wins, 101 losses, and 20 ties (The Famous People).
After his third collegiate championship with the University of Minnesota, he was hired to coach the Olympic hockey team. He was able to choose his players, hand picking his team. He brought a new style of coaching to the game. Mixing multiple styles from American, Canadian, and European into one. This eventually led to a gold medal win for the United States. His unique coaching style and leadership traits allowed the United States underdogs, to end victorious (The Famous People). This moment is considered one of the greatest sports moments in history.
After his win in the 1980 Olympic game, Brooks moved on to coach in the National League A for a year. The from 1981 to 2000 he spent most of his coaching career in the National Hockey League. As well as coaching two more Olympic hockey teams. In 2003 he had an untimely death in a car accident, leaving behind one of the greatest coaching legacies. In 2006, he was honored with the Wayne Gretzky International Award and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (The Famous People).
Brooks had great traits that contributed to him becoming the successful leader that he was. He held drive, honesty, leadership motivation, self-confidence, cognitive ability, knowledge, and creativity. All of these are shown in the 1980 Olympic Games.
To be a colligate athlete, one must possess drive to succeed in the classroom and in the game. Then after bring cut from the 1960 Olympic hockey team, this fed Brooks’ motivation. His drive to work even harder than he already had. After his playing career, his drive still showed through in his coaching. Even when he was thought to lose, he encouraged his team to fight for their wins. He was quoted “You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours. (2017)”
Brooks started playing hockey as a kid. He knew the game inside and out as a player. He had not only played the game for years, but he had played on the most elite teams in the world. One of his players told the LA Times, “you didn’t have to like him, but you respected the stand he took and his hockey knowledge (Rappoport, 1990).”
Brooks always wanted to be honest with his players. He told them the truth time and time again, even when it was not what they wanted to hear. He told them after an exhibition game that they were not talented enough to win a game on talent alone (MHS Mantra, 2014). They needed to work hard and play together. This comment was harsh and to the point, but brutally honest. He felt that being honest to his players was what was going to help them become better and win the game.
Brooks was able to get 20 men to commit to play on his team, even when no one thought they would be able to win. He was able to get the players from all over to play cohesively as a team. He was able to change these players into champions and win the gold (Adam). Brooks was able to influence these young men to want to play and win. This plays on his ability be self-confident enough to take on this position. If he had doubts, he would not have made it far.
Brooks studied psychology in college. He knew that to win, he needed more than just talent. He needed to know how the players played and worked as a teammate. He had the cognitive ability to lead this team to victory. (Chin & Granat, 2010)
Brooks knew that he could not play against the Soviet Union with the typical American playing style. He had to be creative and change things up, bring a mixture of playing styles into the game. He created a hybrid style between Canadian and European (The Herb Brooks Foundation).
Significant Leadership Challenges
In the 1980 Olympic game, Brooks was able to hand pick his team. While recruiting, many elite college players did not try out for the Olympic hockey team. The reason being that they did not believe that the United States had a chance to win gold, even before the games started. Brooks was not so much concerned about having the best players on his team, but having players that would mesh well together and play as a team. He knew that it would take more than just talent to beat the Soviet Union and win the gold medal (Adam).
The average age of the team was 21 years old. This is the youngest team to play for the United States in Olympic history. In the United States at this time, Olympic hockey teams were not able to select professional hockey players. In the Soviet Union, the players played on their hockey team year round. Many Soviet Union players were employed by organizations where the sole purpose of their job was to play hockey and the Olympic roster had much little turnover (Pakarinen, 2016). Brooks knew that beating the Soviet Union would be one of the largest challenges for the United States team. He needed to make sure that the players were physically and mentally strong enough to play against them. To do this, Brooks required his players to take a psychology test. This test helped determine what kind of player they were. He only wanted to recruit players that were open minded, easily coachable, and willing to learn (Chin & Granat, 2010). This is where he used his cognitive abilities to determine which players would be the best fit for the team.
He chose nine players from his University of Minnesota team and four players from University of Minnesota’s rival, Boston University. The other six players were from other colleges across the nation. The hostility between the University of Minnesota players and the Boston University players carried over onto the Olympic hockey team, but not for long. Brooks knew this could be an issue, so he built his forward lines by region. This was a creative approach to handling the hostility of the team and helped the team build their chemistry (Chin & Granat, 2010). Brooks forced them to prevail in all situations as a team.
To intensify the situation, this was more than just a hockey game. Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were heightened because of the ongoing Cold War. Coach Brooks tried hard to keep politics out of the locker room, but it was still buzzing nationally. The team received multiple mailings and telegrams to “crush the Soviet Union,” solidifying to the players that to the American citizens, this was more than a hockey game. Coach Brooks needed to make sure that they were focused on the game. It added stress to Coach Brooks in an already tense situation. Losing to the Soviet Union would signify more to the American people than just losing a hockey game. Brooks knew he had the ability to create the new coaching style that would beat the Soviet Union and was able to implement his carefully constructed game plan. Leading to the USA win. (I do not know how to do this one: http://files.umwblogs.org/blogs.dir/8892/files/2014/04/Ferrell-Reading-1.pdf)
Types of Power
Coach Brooks held legitimate power as the Head Coach of the United States Olympic hockey team. His players and coaching staff recognized and accepted his authority in this position. An example of this would be a “no new facial hair policy.” (Adam) This was a strange rule that he had for his players that was not needed for play, but they followed it because of his position.
Coach Brooks held coercive power in his position. An example of this would be the situation after an exhibition game. The team did not perform to Brooks’ expectations. He told his Assistant Coach to find a whistle and made the team run continuous sprints. The players continued with this drill for 45 minutes (MHS Mantra, 2014). This situation shows that the players knew of his legitimate power.
Brooks started playing hockey as a kid. He knew the game inside and out as a player. Then as a coach, he held expert power. He had not only played the game for years, but he had played on the most elite teams in the world. One of his players told the LA Times, “you didn’t have to like him, but you respected the stand he took and his hockey knowledge.” (Rappoport, 1990).
The pre-game and intermission speeches that he gave were not complimentary. These speeches were meant to motivate and light a fire in his players to make them perform during their game. He was quoted multiple times saying “Don’t be common. The common person goes nowhere. Be uncommon (2017).” Even though his players did not adore him, he was able to engage with them and move them to the end goal, showing charismatic power.
Situational leaders understand their situation and choose the leadership style that best fits that situation. The two variables that contribute to situational leadership are task behavior and relationship behavior (Greenberg). Brooks understood his players and the challenges that he faced. The state of the United States Olympic hockey team was in a telling situation. The players needed direction from Brooks, but not emotional support (Greenberg). This enables his commanding leadership style.
A commanding leadership style is best when used in a crisis (Goleman, 2000). With the United States Olympic hockey team, the team was going up against the best hockey team in the world, in a game that had larger political implications. Brooks did not have a lot of time to prepare for the Olympic season. He needed his players, who had never played together, to perform at such a high level immediately, as they did not have time for preparations like the Soviet Union team that trained year-round (Pakarinen, 2016). Brooks was not trying to build relationships with his team members, but instead had a “do as I say” style that lead into his drive to win.
The way that Coach Brooks lead his team allowed them to win. If he had not have pushed them and lead with the styles that he did, the outcome would not have been the same. For the players, this was a way as college students to represent their country in a way that they have never done before. If Coach Brooks had not formed them into the players that they had become, they may not have had the opportunity continued their career in the National Hockey League, which was provided to them.
Lessons to be learnedCoach Brooks leadership and coaching of the team and the results they achieved had a larger impact on the political climate of the time. Politically, this game was important to the climate in the United States. After the game, the nationalistic pride rose greatly. Many political figures drew on the success of the United States Olympic Hockey Team to obtain support for their team. (http://files.umwblogs.org/blogs.dir/8892/files/2014/04/Ferrell-Reading-1.pdf)
Coach Brooks brought together a talented group of individuals and allowed them to show their talents by winning the gold medal in the 1980 Olympic Games. His leadership in this situation was most successful because he allowed his team to grow together. Forcing his commanding leadership style onto them was the most effective way to enforce positive change quickly. He was able to force the young men to come together and play as a cohesive team. He did this by reinforcing to them that whom they are playing for was more important than the college they went to or the region they were from. Through his leadership motivation, he was able to influence his players to achieve the shared goal of winning the gold medal for their country. He instilled in them that they were all playing for the United States and not for themselves. Brooks enabled the youngest team in American history to be the best hockey team in the world. He took his knowledge of the game and ability to create a game plan that he knew could win against the Soviet Union. His desire for achievement was the underlying influence of all his actions.
Rappoport, K. (1990, February 11). MIRACLE ON ICE, REVISITED : Brooks played his ‘Rockne routine’ at the right time. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-11/sports/sp-949_1_herb-brooksAdam, C. (n.d.). Featured Series: The “Miracle” Behind Herb Brooks’ Miracle on Ice. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from http://dantudor.com/featured-series-the-miracle-behind-herb-brookss-miracle-on-ice-4/Chin, C. J., & Granat, J. P. (2010, February 22). How Miraculous Was the Miracle? Retrieved September 29, 2018, from https://vancouver2010.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/how-miraculous-was-the-miracle/The Famous People. (n.d.). Who is Herb Brooks? Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/herb-brooks-4826.php29 Inspiring Herb Brooks Quotes To Motivate You. (2017, September 13). Retrieved September 30, 2018, from http://www.spongecoach.com/inspiring-herb-brooks-quotes/MHS Mantra. (2014, April 06). History vs. Hollywood: Miracle. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from http://www.mhsmantra.com/2014/04/06/history-vs-hollywood-miracle/The Herb Brooks Foundation. (n.d.). About Coach Brooks. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://www.herbbrooksfoundation.com/coachbrooksPakarinen, R. (2016, September 19). 1980 Soviet Union squad was history’s greatest international hockey team. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/17541053/nhl-world-cup-hockey-why-1980-soviet-union-squad-was-greatest-international-hockey-team-allGreenberg, J. (n.d.). Managing Behavior in Organizations (6th ed.). Pearson.
Goleman, David. “Leadership that Gets Results” Harvard Business Review. March-April 2000 p. 82-83.