Are You Trying to Be a Hero, or a Leader?


I don’t think anyone can do it on their own. It’s why I talk so much about team. But it’s not just a question of doing everything yourself. To most people, that much is obvious. There are only so many hours in a day, and we are still only able to be physically present in one place at a time. Most people realize that they need other people.

But a lot of people still think they have to know everything. Even if they don’t do everything personally, they have to make every decision for every person, all by themselves. They insist that they know best, and micromanage. The “team” is there only to do as they’re told.

That’s not how I think of a team. Making every decision is exhausting—and leads to mistakes. I don’t know everything. No one does. There are some things that I know a lot about, and some things that I don’t know very much about. If I were to make every decision on my own about the things I don’t know, I would not get it right.

And other times, it’s trusting your teammates to know what they are doing and seeing when they are the ones in the trenches. As a quarterback, I could see what I could see, but there were things going on that I couldn’t even see. So I would constantly ask my teammates what was happening. What are you seeing? What is working? What will not work? What little details have you picked up over the course of the game that we can use for this next play?

If my offensive tackle Ron Yary said that he could beat his man on the inside, but not on the outside, I trusted him. I would call a play having him beat his man inside. If one of my receivers said they could get open on a certain move, I would use that information. I trust my teammates. They are going against their man on every play, so they have up-close opportunities to see things—subtle movements, brief openings—that I could never see from my spot under center and in the pocket.

As the quarterback, I called the plays. But I didn’t call the plays without listening to each player on the unit, to take advantage of their special knowledge and experience. I didn’t know everything, and I couldn’t make a decision thinking that I did.

It’s the same for any leader. None of us knows everything. Teams require relationships built on trust, but that trust has to go both ways. The team trusts its leader, but the leader has to trust the team, too. The team can not only help to accomplish tasks, but provide insight to make the tough decisions in the first place.

A leader who doesn’t listen and has to make every decision alone is too busy trying to be a hero to ever actually win the game. It takes a team—and not just an army of followers, but a team of people who know, trust, and listen to one another.

This article was originally published by AMAC SBS

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton is an entrepreneur and NFL Hall of Famer, and the founder of and Tarkenton Companies. With a passion for small business, he’s started more than 20 businesses during and after his NFL career. Fran is a small business coach for entrepreneurs and business owners, providing advice and guidance through sites such as,, and more. He has written about business issues in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. New and World Report, and USA Today, along with regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Fran_Tarkenton.