John Talty, sports editor of AL.com, has a new book out today about the state of Alabama’s most successful football coach.
But he’s quick to say that “The Leadership Secrets of Nick Saban” isn’t a football book. Or at least not just a football book.
It’s a business book and leadership book, too, one that takes “the process” and other facets of Saban’s leadership style and shows how those principles can be applied to most any industry.
“The Leadership Secrets of Nick Saban” is available today, and Talty took a few minutes to answer some questions about it:
Q. A number of books and endless articles have been written about Saban. What makes yours different?
This book will not only give you the most complete picture of Nick Saban you’ve ever read, but it’ll explain his strategies and methodologies in an easily accessible way regardless of how big a football fan you might be. This book is a blend of sports, business and leadership with never-before-reported details on some of the biggest and most impactful moments of Saban’s career. I really liked the way The Athletic writer Andy Staples assessed the book to me as, “It makes everything that’s happened in Nick Saban’s career make so much more sense.”
Q. What is the magic of Saban’s popularity here? Is it just because he wins?
It is not just because he wins, but how he wins. It is the consistency year-after-year. It is the unrelenting pursuit of success. I think people love that he’s not satisfied after a win, especially if the team didn’t perform to his standards. He lives his life in a way that is aspirational to those who want to achieve great things. But, yeah, it doesn’t hurt his popularity that he’s won six national championships here and will go down as the greatest college football coach of all time.
Q. Some of your chapter names – “Build Your Team Framework,” “You Can’t Be the Only Leader,” “Use Staff Turnover to Improve,” “Delegation is Good but Too Much Kills the Culture,” “Preparation is Everything” – could be straight out of a business book. Is that by design? Do you see many of these principles applying to the business world?
Absolutely. The design of the book is to show how and why Saban has achieved – and sustained – this incredible run of success and how it might be applicable beyond a football field. For many years now, former players and coaches have told me Saban runs the Alabama football program like a business. So, I set out to discover how true that actually was and what specifically would make the most sense to be deployed outside of sports. There is so much that Saban does, from how he finds the right people to how he avoids complacency after organizational success, that would benefit leaders and businesses of any kind. It was critically important to me to find broader lessons behind Saban’s strategy that would be just as valuable to someone running a business as a football program.
Q. You get explicit about the business connection, at one point saying Saban has built “one of the most successful organizations of the twenty-first century in any industry.” Can you talk about that a bit? Is it a bit of hyperbole?
It is a strong take, no doubt, but consider this: during a 15-year stretch in a cutthroat industry fueled by billion-dollar television contracts, Nick Saban has finished the year as No. 1 six times. And in many of the years he didn’t finish No. 1, he came awfully close. There aren’t many businesses or business leaders who can make similar claims in their fields. He has groomed some of the other top coaches in college football, namely Georgia’s Kirby Smart, and has an unparalleled run of developing players into NFL first-round draft picks. Alabama football under Saban is one of the best run and successful organizations in sports history, and there’s no reason that should be discounted when we evaluate successful organizations across different industries.
Q. Do you think Saban could/would have been successful in another industry? Is his “process” applicable elsewhere?
The whole reason I wrote this book is because I believe that it is. I’ve covered college football in some capacity for nearly two decades now, and Saban is the only one I’ve ever been around that I believe has a system that could be applicable in any field. He’s so methodical and detail-oriented that I truly believe he could succeed as a leader of a wide variety of businesses. The biggest guarantee I’ll make about this book is there will be at least one thing you’ll read about Saban and how he runs his organization that you’ll want to enact in your daily routine.