LEAD 200: Leader Analysis Paper

Leader Analysis Paper

Tony Dungy

LEAD 200


Tony Dungy has been a leader for much of his life and he continuously encourages others to develop their leadership abilities as well. For these reasons, Tony Dungy will be the focus of this leader analysis paper.


The second of four Dungy children, Tony was born on October 6th, 1955 in Jackson, Michigan. According to Bell (2007), “He and his three siblings were raised in a home where education and faith were stressed.” This could be attributed to the fact that both of his parents were educators. His father, Wilbur, was a physiology professor at Jackson Community College and his mother, Cleomae, taught English and Public Speaking at Jackson High (Dungy, 2007).

At age 14, Tony was elected student body president at Jackson Parkside High (Bell, 2007). Not only was he student body president, but he was also star of the baseball, basketball, football and track teams. He went on to earn a football scholarship at the University of Minnesota, where he started four years at quarterback. He finished his Minnesota career as the program’s career leader in pass attempts, pass completions, passing touchdowns, and passing yards. In addition, he was two time Academic All-Big Ten and received the Big Ten Medal of Honor, in 1977, which is awarded for attaining the greatest proficiency in athletics and academics (“Anthony Kevin Dungy,” 2013).

Even with all the success Tony had as a quarterback for the Minnesota Gophers, he was not selected in the 1977 NFL draft. Unrelentingly, however, he went on to play defensive safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers and actually led the team in interceptions during their 1978 Super Bowl Championship season. The next year he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, where he played one year before being traded again to the New York Giants. After being cut from the Giants’ roster in the preseason, Tony announced his retirement.

This retirement kicked off his coaching career. He started as an assistant coach with his alma mater, Minnesota and then moved on to the NFL. In 1981, at age 25, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired Tony as an assistant coach, under Chuck Noll, making him the NFL’s youngest assistant coach. Three years later, in 1984, the Steelers named him the youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL.

His first head coaching job came with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996. After accomplishing four winning records in six seasons, he was fired as Buccaneers head coach on January 14th, 2002 (Dungy, 2007). During that offseason, Tony was hired as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Ironically, the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl during Tony’s first year with the Colts. Tony got his chance with the Colts, however, in 2007, when he became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. He coached one more year and then retired from coaching in 2008.

Now, Tony is a football analyst, author, and active member of several charities, including Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Prisoner Crusade Ministry (“Anthony Kevin Dungy,” 2013).

Model the Way

According to Kouzes and Posner (2006), in order to model the way, you must, “Find your voice by clarifying your personal values” and “Set the example by aligning actions with shared values” (p. 10).

Tony Dungy is definitely an exemplary leader when it comes to modeling the way. In his book, The Mentor Leader, Dungy (2010) says, “Values, very simply, can be thought of as the rules of the road” (p.38). His ‘rules of the road’ were established at an early age and he has spent the rest of his life following this road without wavering.

As a 14 year old, he ran for student body president and was unopposed. As a star quarterback at the University of Minnesota, he earned Academic All-Big Ten twice. His senior year at the University of Minnesota, he earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor for his exemplary performance in academics and athletics. These accomplishments are a strong testament to his value for both scholastic and athletic excellence.

When he failed to be drafted in the 1977 NFL draft, Dungy turned to God for guidance. He prayed, “God, I can’t believe it. Help me figure out what I’m supposed to do now” (Dungy, 2007, p. 37). He continued to pray until a former coach of his at the University of Minnesota, Tom Moore, contacted him about playing for the Steelers. His prayers were answered as Tom convinced Steelers head coach, Chuck Noll to give Dungy a chance. It would have been easy for him to forget his faith and get caught up in the lime light, especially after playing an integral role in the Steelers’ 1978 Super Bowl season, but he stayed true to his roots and continued to model his faith. In fact, Dungy (2010) said, “Finally I understood, and I started to move from being a casual Christian to a fully committed follower of Jesus” (p. 43).

After his brief, yet successful, NFL career, Dungy entered the coaching ranks. In his coaching role, he maximized his ability to have a positive influence on others. At first it was through the positive influence he had on the younger athletes he coached directly. Then he became actively involved in faith-based organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Prisoner Crusade Ministry. Finally, after modeling the way through his actions, he accepted an offer to write Quiet Strength. This gave Dungy a new medium to positively influence others. Since Quiet Strength, he has written several books that have been very well received. Dungy (2010) wrote, “Mentor leaders demonstrate courage and are willing to lead by example” (p. 77). All of this is only possible because he walks the talk.

Inspire a Shared Vision

According to Kouzes and Posner (2006), in order to inspire a shared vision, one must, “Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities” and “Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations” (p. 10).

Dungy (2010) said, “Mentor leaders look beyond themselves, focusing on the people they lead and where they should be going together” (p. 23). In his 27 years coaching in the NFL, Dungy did just that. His teams and his staff had the luxury of following a leader who was dedicated to their individual and team development.Dungy (2007) wrote, “I have always believed that if you tell people what needs to be done, they will do it – if they believe you and your motives for telling them. I knew these guys would see through manipulation but would respond to motivation” (p. 122).

With this approach, Dungy was able to create a sustained culture of continuous improvement. He played the long game. His mantra was, “Whatever it takes. No excuses, no explanations. Do what we do” (Dungy, 2007, p. 125).

Transformational leadership, as defined by Northouse (2013), “Is the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower” (p. 186). Tony Dungy utilized his transformational approach to build successful football teams and is continuing to use this approach to inspire a shared vision for all those who follow his leadership example.

Challenge the Process

According to Kouzes and Posner (2006), in order to challenge the process, one must, “Search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve” and “Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes” (p. 11).

After the last game of his junior football season at Jackson Parkside, Dungy discovered that he was named captain of the football team for the next year. To his dismay, however, his good friend, who was also African-American, was not selected as a captain for the following year. Dungy believed that the school had rigged the vote because they did not want to allow two African-American captains on the football team. Out of principle, because he did not believe the process was fair, Dungy quit football. After several other players followed suit, Dungy was approached by one of the African-American school administrators. After much deliberation, he decided his return to the football team was in the best interest of the team (Dungy, 2007, pp. 22-26).A contributing factor to this decision was his father, Wilbur, who encouraged him to do what he thought was best, but wanted to make sure Tony was considering how he was going to improve the situation.

Fast forward 38 years and Dungy is still encouraging young people to challenge the process. In his book, Uncommon: Finding your path to significance, Dungy (2009) encourages his readers to be themselves; to not conform to the social norms that have steadily gone awry. He quotes his former Minnesota Gophers coach, Cal Stoll, who said, “Success is uncommon, therefore not to be enjoyed by the common man. I’m looking for uncommon people” (Dungy, 2009, Introduction).

Enable Others to Act

According to Kouzes and Posner (2006), in order to enable others to act, you must, “Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust” and “Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion” (p. 11).

In the winter of 2004, while Dungy was coaching in Indianapolis, his family went back home to Tampa for the holiday season. With his family gone, he had no reason to leave the office. He was free to stay and work as late as he wanted. During this period of time, Dungy left just as early as he normally would, however. When someone questioned whether his family was gone, he replied that they were, “But if I had stayed late at the office on a Thursday, then the other coaches – whose families weren’t out of town – would have felt compelled to stay late, even if I told them otherwise” (Dungy, 2010, p. 57).

Dungy left early so he could enable the others to act. His staying late would have prevented them from making their own decisions. Knowing this, Dungy removed himself from the equation.

Encourage the Heart

According to Kouzes and Posner (2006), in order to encourage the heart, one must, “Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence” and “Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community” (p. 11).

When Dungy arrived in Tampa Bay to coach the Buccaneers in 1996, he had a mission that extended far beyond the stadium walls. He intended to build a team that would have a positive impact on the entire community. Dungy (2007) wrote, “One of the first articles written in the local newspaper after we took the practice fields in Tampa pointed out the fact that almost no profanity was heard at practice anymore.” He continued, “I think the fact that so many of our assistant coaches were positive teachers helped that process. I also continued to emphasize the need for our staff to be encouraging and positive in their approach to coaching.”

Another example of Dungy encouraging the heart came when Michael Vick was released from prison after his dog fighting conviction. He approached Vick with the intentions of mentoring him. Dungy (2010) wrote, “Michael Vick and I have pressed on with the goal of putting his life on a different and more significant trajectory. My primary goal is to build into his life so that he, in turn, can have a positive impact on other young men” (p. 10).

Assessment Analysis

Tony Dungy’s Jung Typology is most likely INFP. Even though he has been in a public position for most of his life, he still has many introverted tendencies. He is very intuitive and sees the big picture. Atypical of a football coach, Dungy has a feeling preference, which may explain his mild mannered, unorthodox approach to coaching. Much of his writing talks about how we are not in control and, therefore, we must take each moment as they come. This alludes to a P preference as opposed to a J.

The strongest area of his DISC assessment would be the I. His natural style does not reveal much D, but his adapted style, most likely due to his career choice, shows a stronger D. S would be his secondary letter, given his calm demeanor and steady approach to work and life. Another low part of Dungy’s DISC would be the C. He does not have the need to force compliance, nor does he have a desire to conform to social norms.

If Dungy were to complete the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, he would most likely discover the following strengths:

  1. Belief
  2. Developer
  3. Connectedness
  4. Adaptability
  5. Consistency

His belief in God has been his driving force throughout his life. His coaching and writing strongly reflect his desire to develop others to reach their potential. Stemming from his faith, he truly believes that we are all connected under God and this guides his actions. Adaptability is evident in his ability to overcome the adversity he faced when switching from college quarterback to NFL safety, being fired as Buccaneers coach then taking the Colts to the Super Bowl five years later, and being able to move forward and overcome the pain that resulted from the suicide of his oldest son, James. Through it all, Dungy stays true to himself and remains consistent.


            Tony Dungy shows signs of all five practices of exemplary leaders. Some areas, such as modeling the way, are more developed than others, but he has proven capable of practicing each area effectively. He has had tremendous success as a leader and encourages others to embrace their leadership aptitudes as well. He is an excellent example of what an exemplary leader should be.











Anthony Kevin Dungy. (2013). The Biography Channel website. Retrieved 02:11, Oct 21, 2013, from http://www.biography.com/people/tony-dungy-21330527.

Bell, J. (2007, January 29). Dungy’s upbringing was super solid. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/colts/2007-01-29-dungy-cover_x.htm

Dungy, T. (2006). Quiet Strength: The principles, practices, & priorities of a winning life. Winter Park, FL: Legacy LLC.

Dungy, T. (2009) Uncommon: Finding your path to significance. Winter Park, FL: Legacy LLC.

Dungy, T. (2010). The Mentor Leader: Secrets to building people and teams that win consistently. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z. (2006). The Leadership Challenge Workshop, Participant’s Workbook (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Northouse, P. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE publications, Inc.

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