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“Before you can talk about a shared vision, you have to be aligned correctly.” — Mike Singletary, Minnesota Vikings linebackers coach and assistant head coach

Mike Singletary

Coaching the leaders of tomorrow

Mike Singletary gives Kellogg students a pep talk on the importance of accountability

By Sara Langen

3/1/2011 - If there’s one thing Chicago Bears football legend Mike Singletary has learned throughout his career, it’s that stepping into a leadership role is a lot like entering into a marriage. If you don’t ask questions first, you might find yourself unpleasantly surprised by the answers later.

“Leadership means a lot of different things to different people,” the Minnesota Vikings linebackers coach and assistant head coach told an audience of Kellogg students at Wieboldt Hall, home of Kellogg’s Part-Time Program. “Before you can talk about a shared vision, you have to be aligned correctly. We have to talk about shared values. I have to know what’s important to you.”

Singletary discussed leadership under adversity at a Feb. 22 Black History Month event sponsored by the Kellogg Black Management Association. Having faced the challenges of leading under tough circumstances during his recent tenure as interim head coach with the San Francisco 49ers, the Pro Football Hall of Famer said he learned how important it was to establish a shared vision and shared values with one’s organization from the beginning. That experience taught him that the circumstances must be right for him to step into the head coach position again.

“The most important thing that happened [with the 49ers] was the fact that I had the opportunity to coach,” he said. “I used to wonder what it was like to sit in that chair. Now, I know. I’m going to continue toward my goal of being one of the greatest coaches of all time, and that was the first step.”

Singletary said the characteristics he values most in the people he works with are accountability, honest communication, a determination to improve and respect.

“Whatever you’re telling me, that’s what I’m going to hold you to,” he said. “And you know what? It’s a difficult thing. In a marriage, if we really understood … what we were committing to, I think most of us would take a couple steps back and say, ‘Hold on. Is this something I can do every day?’”

That message of following through resonated with audience members, including Lou Farinella ’13. A Singletary fan since watching the 1985 Bears win the Super Bowl as a 5-year-old, the Chicagoan said he took the coach’s words to heart.

“He’s a great public speaker,” he said. “I liked what he said about the importance of establishing shared values. Every single day, hold yourself accountable. Every single day, do what you say you’re going to do.”