Part 1: Interview with Head Coach Steve Jones on Leadership - Dignify
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Part 1: Interview with Head Coach Steve Jones on Leadership

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - Joe Kiedinger

Steve Jones is a Leadership Educator and Head Football Coach at Kimberly High School – home of The Papermakers! He has a passion for developing leaders that create a “winning” culture.  Steve and the coaches and players of the Kimberly football team know a bit about this winning culture, having earned the following titles together:

2014 and 2015 Division I State Champions

2007, 2008, and 2013 Division II State Champions

2009 Division II State Runner-Up

In advance of his presentation at the Servant Leaders of Wisconsin event on February 25th, Steve shared with us some details from his own leadership journey. 

Q: Who was your leadership mentor? Why?

Steve: My older brother John is my leadership mentor. John is 10 years older than me. Growing up without a father, John filled the role of a father figure and set an example of what a leader should be.  What stands out is that John could easily have chosen not to, he was off at college, Steve_Jones_-_Kimberly_2015.jpgand like most college students, he had other things he could be doing.  Yet, he chose to put my needs first in the times that I needed it.  Not only did I see him as a leader then, but I still often look to him for guidance and still always see him as a leader today.


Q: What is the biggest leadership obstacle you have had to overcome?

Steve: Being a head football coach comes with its challenges. There are 170 players and 18 coaching staff.  It’s a big group to lead!  An obstacle has been meeting everyone’s needs to the best of my ability.  As a coach, you are working not only with the players, but also their schedules and their family’s schedules and needs.  It’s important to focus not just on the wins and losses of the team, but to focus on the relationships built within the team.  Focusing on what is important, developing the team members into successful family and community members, and building relationships between them leads to the team’s success.  


Q: How do you motivate a team that is made up of all different personalities & backgrounds?

Steve: Surround yourself with other great leaders. I can’t manage 170 individual relationships, but I can manage relationships with other coaches, and those coaches help manage the relationships within the team. As a team of coaches, our goal is to have the boys leave as men.  Strong parental support, strong teacher support, strong coaching support – having this community of great leaders allows us to reach every boy on the team in a meaningful way.

In order to be motivating to a team, you have to be motivated! Being a passionate leader is important. If you want others to be excited and on board with the team’s mission, you need to show your excitement. 

Having a clear purpose and reinforcing this purpose is important. Don’t try to do too much all at once. Focus on a clear mission and the other things will come easier, more naturally.  Again, show excitement about the mission!


Q: What happens if your leadership style is not connecting with a team member?

Steve: Certainly not every player is going to connect with my leadership style. In our program, we have 18 coaching staff members, each with their own unique personality, but with the same core values.  The coaching staff may be able to connect with team members differently. With this leadership diversity, team members can find someone they connect with. Building the relationship between team member and coach is key.


Q: How’s does discipline play into leadership?

Steve: One of our core values is accountability. That falls right in line with discipline. When your team aligns to your core values, they all engage with the expectations of the values. Culture is driven from everyone on the team, not just the coaches. We work very hard to develop our players into leaders. When the team members believe in the core values of the team – they drive the culture, including that of accountability. They police themselves. We set clear expectations and as a team we hold fast to that.


Q: Why is it important for our youth to learn about and practice leadership?

Steve: Leadership really is for EVERYONE. What we talk about with students helps them reach their full potential and helps get them to what they want to accomplish in life.  Decision making, problem solving, communication, being part of a team, accountability, and even failure. These are the types of things to learn with leadership that will help them succeed in life!


Q: How does your leadership on the field impact the students as they enter the workplace?

Steve: What they are getting is real life application.  If they go in for a job interview, they have real life application of being part of a team and being a leader. Being on the team allows them to experience failure, that word that most people do not want to talk about!  Failure can lead to the greatest growth. Businesses are looking for good communicators, good collaborators, and problem solvers. In the program, the team members are doing these things on their own – not the coaches making the decisions for them.

 See Steve speak about servant leadership and creating a “winning” culture at our upcoming FREE Servant Leaders of Wisconsin event.

Also, stay tuned for a follow-up interview to read about Steve’s most rewarding leadership moment, and about the importance of developing core values as a team.


Learn more about Servant Leaders of Wisconsin FREE quarterly meetings and sign up to get notified for upcoming events!

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