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Key Leadership Takeaways From The Book, Against The Grain

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to communicate. And, football coach Bill Courtney tells many compelling stories in his book, Against The Grain.

Courtney coached the Manassas High School football team in Memphis, TN. The 2011 Oscar-winning documentary, Undefeated, (Best Documentary Feature) tells his story of how he inspired his teams on and off the field. And, about the hard-won lessons on discipline, success, teamwork, and triumph over adversity.

Courtney then went on to be a volunteer football coach and operator of Classic American Hardwoods, a $40 million lumber company and 2013 inductee into the prestigious Society of Entrepreneurs.

In his book, he shares his convictions on the fundamental tenets of:
  • character
  • commitment
  • service
  • leadership
  • civility
Each chapter tells the story of one of these tenets through compelling anecdotes of various characters in Courtney's life and career.
  • For me, each story and chapter gave me the opportunity for self-reflection. A real "gut check." 
Takeaways from the book include Courtney's advice:
  • The true measure of a person's character is how one handles one's failures, not successes.
  • Serving and attempting to inspire others is a responsibility, not a choice.
  • The effectiveness of a leader is best judged by the actions of those he guides.
  • How we treat those whom we oppose says more about us than our own opinions do.
  • Every great thing that has been accomplished and is yet to be accomplished starts with a dream.
  • The greatest barrier to success is one's own fear of failure.
Finally, my two favorites pieces of advice from coach Courtney are these:
  • Fame is fleeting, accolades are forgotten, money comes and goes--but the proper foundation will remain forever.
  • No one but you has control over your legacy. That's a choice you face every single day in terms of your attitude and commitment. Making that decision, which can mean taking some very difficult steps to abide by the principles that truly matter, will lead you on a path to your own profound legacy. Even if you have to go against the grain.
Read this book. You'll be inspired. Humbled. And motivated.  It's one of the best character-building leadership books I've read.


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