Three Leadership Lessons From Tony Dungy

This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of Quiet Strength, Tony Dungy’s memoir. It was the first book I’d ever written, and the primary reason I hounded him for three years to write it was because I’d seen his leadership up close during a season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’d hoped it might help some people along the way, but it surpassed my wildest expectations, selling over a million copies in its first year and launching my writing and speaking career – leading to another seven books with Tony as well as others.

In honor of that anniversary, here are three leadership lessons I gleaned from watching Tony on a daily basis.

  1. Be Yourself.

He’s intelligent, deliberative and soft-spoken. As he was promoted into roles that carried greater formal leadership (positions of “authority”), he stayed true to his personality. He never tried to become an authoritarian or screamer, which some expected him to be. On the flip side, if your personality is more direct and boisterous, that’s okay, too. No need to become like Tony. Your leadership style should reflect, well, you.

  1. Prioritize Yourself.

Leading up to the writing of Quiet Strength, I’d watched friends at other NFL teams or law school classmates in law firms get consumed by the expectations of their environment. Tony never did that, and fully recognizes that “life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” He couldn’t make up time with his family later, because “later” might never come. He couldn’t treat people badly along the way, because his legacy was being created at every step, relationships built or destroyed. He couldn’t let the ends justify the means, because who we are is defined along the way, not by our wins or policy decisions.

  1. Replicate Yourself.

Tony was never concerned with who got credit. He’s not only humble, but would actually prefer that others get put in positions that will help them grow in their leadership capabilities, even if it was to his “detriment.” He delegated authority (occasionally leading to more work on his part by having to oversee things he could’ve handled quickly on his own), seeking to empower others into the ability to take on greater leadership roles. He believes, as do I, that if the organization crumbles when the leader departs, then that leader probably didn’t do enough to mentor other leaders to create a sustainable system. If we care about others—and the organization—then we should strive for our eventual absence to not cause a hiccup in the operation.

It’s not about us.

These things aren’t easy, but they are simple:

  • Stay true to your personality.
  • Continually build your character.
  • Develop others.

If you do nothing else, those three will take you a long way.

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July 14, 2022 at 11:43 am
Brian Raison

I just added this to the reading list of my upcoming ACEL8420 graduate course on Leadership. Thank you Nathan!

July 14, 2022 at 11:03 pm
Nathan Whitaker

Excellent, Brian! Thanks for sharing!


Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.