Holtz shares leadership essentials at packed Distinguished Speaker Series

Lou HoltzWith a packed Ryan Concert Hall overflowing into the foyer of the T. Furth Center for Performing Arts, former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz urged those attending Trine University’s Distinguished Speaker Series to build trust, commitment and love as they lead others.

Holtz, the namesake for Trine’s Master of Science in leadership degree program, spoke Monday, Oct. 16, in the second fall installment of the series.

In a presentation frequently punctuated with humor — he quipped that he gave his wife an unlimited budget to build a new house, “and she exceeded it” — stories from his life and football coaching career, and even one magic trick, Holtz told Trine students and members of the community that vision is essential to leadership.

“Everything starts with a vision: Where do you want to go?” he said. “Then you have to have a plan to get there. You lead by example and you hold people accountable for the choices they make.”

“The biggest mistake I find with people is we stop dreaming,” he said. “We stop thinking about what we want to do.”

He also challenged those in attendance to do more than maintain the status quo.

“You’re either growing or you’re dying,” he said. “Are you trying to accomplish something or are you just trying to maintain? Any time you try to maintain, you’re dying.”

Holtz shared what he called three rules for self-image, parenting and leadership in any setting. The first, he said, is “Do what’s right and not what’s wrong.”

“There’s never a right time to do the wrong thing, and there’s a never a wrong time to do the right thing,” he said.

The second is to do everything to the very best of your ability.

“Not everybody can be All-American,” he said. “Not everybody can be All-Conference. Not everybody can be first team. Everybody can be the best you’re capable of being.”

Part of performing to the best of your ability, he said, is working together as a team.

“As the challenge escalates, the need for teamwork must elevate,” he said. “You don’t need teamwork to lose, but you need it if you’re going to succeed. And the greater the competition is, the more important it is to work together.”

The third, he said, is to show people you care.

“You can find 100 things to dislike about everybody,” he said. “You can find 100 things to like about them also, if you get to know them.”

Related to these three rules, Holtz said, are three questions everybody asks: Can I trust you? Are you committed to excellence? Do you care about me?

“Ladies and gentlemen, without trust there can be no relationship whatsoever,” he said. “People have to be able to trust you.

“If trust is important in a relationship, how can I make sure people can trust me? That’s why we have rule number one. You do what’s right, because if you do what’s right you’re going to build trust.”

Holtz said there is a statue of him on the Notre Dame campus with three words on its base: “trust, commitment and love. That’s our foundation. And in leadership, that’s all you do.”

“If you’re going to be in a leadership role, as (Ohio State coach) Woody Hayes used to say, if you want to have a friend buy a dog,” he concluded. “Your obligation is to make people the very best they can be, and that’s going to happen when you raise their self-image and then raise their standards of what they believe in themselves.”

Following a question-and-answer time with the audience, Holtz offered a concluding piece of advice for happiness.

“If you want to be happy for an hour, eat a steak,” he said. “If you want to be happy for a day, play golf. If you want to be happy for a week, go on a cruise. If you want to be happy for a month, but a new car. If you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery. If you want to be happy for a lifetime, make sure people would miss you if you didn’t show up. The only people we miss are those who add value to other people’s lives.”

Trine University Board of Trustees chair Dr. Rick L. James and Trine president Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., closed the program by recognizing Holtz with emeritus trustee status. Holtz had served on the board since 2011.

“Coach Holtz, thank you for your dedication, your commitment and your love of Trine University. God bless you,” James said.

Photos: Top, Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, center, receives a proclamation recognizing him with emeritus trustee status. Holtz received the honor from Dr. Rick L. James, left, chair of Trine's Board of Trustees, and Trine President Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., right. Bottom, Lou Holtz speaks in the Ryan Concert Hall during the Trine University Distinguished Speaker Series. (Photos by Dean Prewiler)