Next time you recruit someone amazing to your business, only to have that person leave for a bigger opportunity elsewhere, think about Nick Saban.
Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, is considered one of the greatest college coaches of all time. His teams have won six national championships — five at Alabama and one at Louisiana State University — tied with another Alabama coaching legend, Bear Bryant, for most in college football history.
Now, he’s getting credit for a statistic that might seem a mixed blessing, but one that great leaders will recognize as a compliment: Saban’s teams endure (or maybe “enjoy”) near-constant churn among his assistant coaches. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out on Sunday, not a single on-field assistant coach from Alabama’s national championship victory in 2017 remains on the team today.
Thirty-eight assistants have moved on since 2007. Most of them leave for jobs with higher profiles or more responsibility elsewhere. Last year, USA Today calculated that there were 15 former Saban assistants in head coaching jobs in either the NFL or college football. Add another to that list: Michael Locksley left Alabama earlier this year to become the head coach at the University of Maryland.
As a head coach, and a coaching recruiter, Saban says he’s only interested in assistants that he believes will be very successful — making it unsurprising to him that they’re later recruited away from him.
“I think if you look at most of the coming and going, it’s people getting better jobs,” he told the Journal. “I actually look for people who have goals and aspirations, who are hard workers and very committed to what they do. So people sometimes favor hiring guys that have been in this program.”
The constant churn arguably drives innovation, too. New assistant coaches have the chance to advocate for new strategies. That makes it harder for opposing teams to predict what Alabama will do on the field.
There’s a saying: Good leaders attract followers; great leaders create more leaders.
If that’s true, then count Saban as a leader with an example worth learning from, no matter what your business or calling may be. Feel better about losing your top people when it happens. It’s inevitable if you’re a great leader.