MIAMI — Tony Dungy had been told again and again that he would have to be the type of coach that yelled and screamed and swore at his players if he ever wanted to be successful.
“Leadership is one of the most misunderstood concepts today,” Dungy told a packed room during Regal Marine’s 16th annual faith-based “Leading With Vision and Values” luncheon, which drew hundreds from the marine industry.
“This luncheon was established to encourage and challenge marine industry leaders to consider how faith and values can be applied to life and the workplace,” Regal CEO Duane Kuck said in a statement. “Each year, we are very pleased to bring inspirational keynote speakers who inspire, motivate and exemplify visionary goals and values. We are especially pleased to have Tony Dungy as our special guest this year.”
Dungy explained that he thought about changing his leadership style, which was gentler, more patient and highly focused on faith and family.
There were jobs he wouldn’t get as a result of his leadership style. There were jobs he would lose as a result as well, notably as the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which Floridians still seethe about — perhaps most recently on a water taxi leaving the Miami International Boat Show.
He coached the team for six seasons, molding it carefully — and he watched it win the Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002 from his friend’s home after having been fired in 2001.
After he was fired, Dungy thought perhaps God was leading him to something else, maybe something not related to football. He loved the area, as did his family, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to move, Dungy recalled.
Then he got a call asking him to coach the Indianapolis Colts. On Feb. 4, 2007, Dungy and the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, beating the Chicago Bears at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
Dungy said that was all because of his faith in God and his leading his team in a way that he felt good about. He remembered something his father told him when he was young — “If you don’t want to follow the crowd because you don’t like what they’re doing, go your own way and let the crowd follow you.”
One reason people discounted Philadelphia Eagles, who beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII earlier this month, was because Doug Pederson has a similar leadership style, Dungy said.
Dungy quoted Mike Lombardi, who slammed Pederson as the NFL’s least qualified coach in his 30-year history.
“He doesn’t fit that mold of a leader,” Dungy said. “That ought to tell people that something is wrong with the mold.”
This is particularly a problem for men in leadership roles, said Dungy, who is now a sports commentator for NBC Sports. Many men haven’t had an opportunity to have been led by those who go against the traditional mold as Dungy had in his life.
“Leaders have humility. Leaders don’t tell people how to do it, they show by their attitude and their hard work,” Dungy said. “A lot of people didn’t believe my style could work.”
Focus on family is as important as focus on faith, Dungy emphasized. (He and his wife Lauren have 10 children, seven of whom are adopted.)
He recalled Peyton Manning complaining about Dungy’s policy of having Saturday practices with players’ kids. About every two or three weeks, Manning would come to him and say, “Yeah, it’s great to have the kids here, but, you know, maybe they could stay in the locker room during practice, so we can really focus,” Dungy recalled, laughing.
So, when Dungy went to interview Manning at the Denver Broncos, he laughed when another player ran up and said Manning had asked to have family Saturdays with the team.
“So I did teach Peyton something,” Dungy said, laughing.
Dungy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, joining Mike Ditka and Tom Flores as the only people to win the Super Bowl as both a player and head coach, and is the first African American coach in history to achieve this milestone.
He did mention some of the charities with which he’s involved, including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, Mentors for Life, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, the Prison Crusade Ministry, and All Pro Dad.
He also works with Basket of Hope, the Black Coaches Association National Convention, Indiana Black Expo, the United Way of Central Indiana and the American Diabetes Association.
“It was awesome,” said Wanda Kenton Smith, who delivered the opening prayer at the event. “It’s what I look forward to the most every year in Miami.”
Dungy signed books for most who lined up and posed for pictures, but explained he had to leave somewhat quickly because he picks up his son from school every day.