September 12

How Does Deion Sanders’ Leadership Process Compare to Business?


Deion Sanders took over the University of Colorado football team for the 2023-24 season. When he took over shortly after the 2021-22 season was over he, nearly literally, cleaned house. He told existing players they should pack their luggage. Of the 83 scholarship players from 21-22, only 20 stayed at Colorado. Coach Sanders has 86 new players in the program for this current season.

Now, it's appropriate to say that the Colorado football team was one of the worst in the country in the 21-22 season. After two weeks of the season, Colorado has beaten a team that was in the College Football Playoff last season as well as a Bit Ten school to go 2-0. That was close to the full season win total many predicted for the team.

One could make value judgements about whether it was the right thing to do to put a large group of players out on the street after they committed themselves and their energies to the program. I won't go there.

What is interesting is how this process Coach Sanders is engaging compares to turn around situations in the business world.

Leaders brought in to clean house can' least not completely

When a new leader is hired into a turn around situation, there is usually an understanding that changes need to be made and certain employees will leave. However, those employees are, many times, simply other leaders. It is nearly impossible to fire the mass of front-line employees. There simply isn't a pool of replacements available and the time that would  be needed to hire that amount of people and train them in their roles (or in new ways of thinking which would be needed) would be too much for the organization to handle.

Leaders need to develop what they have available in the moment and, over time if needed, weed out the employees that continue underperfoming. Organizations aren't able to make such a seismic change so quickly.

In college football, with the transfer portal, it is possible to clean house of front-line workers. Football players are football players. They don't need to know market segmnetation or sales, human resources or production. There is a clearinghouse of talent that is eager to find new employment and play for a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Additionaly, the University of Colorado and the entire sporting public didn't expect the football team to be any good in Coach Sanders' first season. Such turnarounds in sports has taken time. That enabled Coach Sanders to blow everything up and not have to face immediate consequences.

Can Coach Sanders develop players and a culture?

Coach Sanders afforded himself the opportunity to not have to develop the players on the team at the time he came on board, like leaders in business have to do. Of the 86 new players on the team for this current season, he probably has 20-30 who can really play and be successful right away. There is another group of younger players that were recruited in the traditional way who will need to mature and grow in order to make contributions.

I suspect that, in today's environment of the transfer protal, Coach Sanders will avail himself of having people leave the portal as well as come in. Those transfers will mingle with high school recruits to create a deeper team that will be able to do more things in the years to come.

Like any organization in business, people and teams need to grow and develop. They need to go through trials and successes to understand what they can be and how they can get there. Identity and culture comes through over time. It's hard to maintain it when there's a revolving door of employees. Coach Sanders has already shown that he is ready, willing and able to take an unorthodox path to building the Colorado program. I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

There may be some rumblings about how Coach Sanders constructed this team and how it reflects on leadership. However, I think his ability to lead at this level will be shown in subsequent years on the football field and over the decades when the players that go through the program make an impact on their communities.


football, leadership

You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get in touch

0 of 350