The Immaculate Reception

The Pittsburgh Steelers recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of The Immaculate Reception, arguably the most famous catch in the history of the National Football League. A good friend and one of my leadership mentors had the good fortune of attending the celebration in honor of this catch. Following the event, she shared several leadership lessons she uncovered that evening.

1) Make the selection decisions that are right for your organization.
Franco Harris is the running back who caught the ball during the immaculate reception. But more importantly, Franco Harris is widely regarded as the player who turned around the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his Hall of Fame playing career, he led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships. Franco’s career got off to a controversial start, however. You see, in the 1972 NFL draft, most people believed the Steelers should select Lydell Mitchell, Franco’s college teammate. Since Franco had been primarily a blocking back in college, blocking for Mitchell, most thought for sure the Steelers would take Mitchell. But Steelers head coach Chuck Knoll wanted Harris. He went against conventional wisdom and selected the player he thought fit best with the team. As leaders we must have the courage to make the decisions that we feel are best for our teams and our organizations. At times, these decisions may be unpopular, but strong leaders will show the courage and conviction to make the decision they believe is right.

2) Train your team and then turn them loose.
When the Steelers brought in Franco Harris, they trained him and then turned him loose “to do his thing.” And the results were immediate. Harris was the Rookie of the Year in 1972 and went on to be selected to 9 consecutive Pro Bowls. Sometimes it’s tough for leaders to step to the side, but if we train our team members well, we can feel confident that turning them loose will produce tremendous results.

3) You can’t do it alone; it takes a team.
Franco Harris was an important player for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s. But if you ask most people about those Steeler Super Bowl teams, they will talk about the “Steel Curtain” defense. The Steelers were known for both their strong running game and their stingy defense. This combination of strength on both offense and defense made them a tough team to beat. For our teams to be successful, we must realize it takes more than one superstar player or leader. We cannot perform at a championship level unless we understand the importance of teamwork. Only when we work together and strive for common goals can we realize success similar to that achieved by Franco Harris and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Although the city of Pittsburgh was celebrating one play, The Immaculate Reception, the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers was about much more than one play or one player. Hopefully these leadership lessons can help you to motivate your team to perform at Super Bowl caliber levels just like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Thanks for reading,


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