Whether you are a Chiefs fan or not, it is hard not to admire the feat that this organization pulled off during the most recent Super Bowl. At the beginning of the season all of the pundits said it couldn’t be done. The Chiefs had lost one of their star players and had to fill their roster with rookies. It was a rebuilding year. Everyone believed this, except for the people who mattered the most–the Chiefs organization. What the Chiefs pulled off is a reminder of some very important lessons in leadership.

Lesson 1: Alignment matters

From top to bottom the Chiefs organization had a clear vision and a solid goal- be the best team in the NFL, win the Super Bowl. When there is a shared depth of understanding about the purpose and nature of the work there is coherence. This occurs when all parts of the system work in concert with each other. In successful schools this looks like tight alignment of all of the school improvement processes (mission and vision, data, SIP, professional development, and supervision). Alignment forces decisions about what is most important at the current moment in time. The Chiefs demonstrated that being clear about the end game (goals) and how to get there (strategies) is a formula for success. 

Lesson 2: Collective belief works

Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right. The Chiefs believed they could. Even though the outside world doubted them, the Chiefs didn’t. What a great  example of collective efficacy. Education research has proven that collective teacher efficacy, the belief that together we can make a difference on outcomes for students, has a profound effect on student outcomes. The Chiefs provided us with a great example of this in action. They won it all because everyone believed they could.

Lesson 3: High levels of support can trump experience

Not to dismiss the talents of one of the greatest players of all time Mahomes and legendary tight end Kelce, but the chiefs relied upon the play of 10 rookies (20% of their roster) to become world champions. They were able to do this because of lesson #1, plus they provided these new players with high levels of support. This started with Mahomes bringing them into the fold early by having a summer camp. When mistakes were  made by the rookies throughout the season they weren’t always immediately benched, they were coached. The work in schools of instructional coaches can’t be overstated. The day to day support they provide to teachers can be a game changer for the students in their classrooms. 

Lesson 4:  Lead alongside rather than over

In post game interviews with Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who has been a highly successful coach in the NFL for 24 years, he continually talked about the quality of his staff and players. He mentioned how much enjoyment he got from working with them. When talking about his coaching staff he talked about how smart and creative they are, how they give him energy. On star player Mahomes, he shared that working with him has made him a better coach. And arguably one of the reasons for the Chiefs successes can be attributed to Reid’s ability to allow his players to take risks in their play. He works  with those around him, bringing out their best. For us in schools this means we have to work alongside teacher  in classrooms and in collaborative groups. We have to listen to them and allow them to try new things. 

The next  time you feel that you and your school are counted out, remember the 2023 World Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Improvement can be swift and successful if we have clear alignment, believe, provide high levels of support, and lead alongside our colleagues.