A profile in servant leadership


From: Steven L. Blue


I was saddened to learn Tom Sawyer, head coach of the Winona State University football team, is retiring at the end of the 2021 season. His achievements as head coach are legendary; others are much more qualified than I am to comment on them, so I won’t. What I do want to comment on is his extraordinary leadership, and the profound impact it has had on the teams he led.

You see, Tom was not all about winning football games, although he certainly did that. As I watched and had the opportunity to interact with Tom over the last 20 years, it was clear to me he was all about developing young people and teaching them the skills and attributes to be successful in life. He was all about the student athletes. If that happened to win football games, which it did, so much the better. In fact, Tom was such a legendary leader, I profiled him in my third book, “American Manufacturing 2.0: What Went Wrong And How To Make It Right.”

Tom’s leadership style can easily translate into a manufacturing environment. Or any environment for that matter. He embodies the qualities of a servant-leader, a term that is thrown around a lot these days, but few leaders have mastered it. Tom has.

Tom, old friend, I will miss you on the playing field. But I know the student athletes you coached and impacted over all these years, won’t miss you at all. They will always remember the huge difference you made in their lives.


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