Shula's players accepted his leadership because he was always honest and ethical in his actions and words. To Shula, how you won was important. In his book with Ken Blanchard: The Little Book of Coaching, Shula discusses the critical importance of being direct and honest:
"The relationship I wanted to establish with my football team is one of mutual respect. The only way you can get respect is to earn it. Not by talking—but by having people see you doing things, time after time, that make sense to them. Your people have to recognize that your actions are motivated not by your ego but by your desire to have them be their best. As long as you have credibility, you have good leadership, and that's something people can hang their hat on—something they can immediately believe and accept.
If your highest authority is your boss or your organization, your last victory, or, worse, yourself, you won't be a very effective coach. With a big-picture perspective, adversity, circumstance, or even your own ego will not consume you. As a result, you don't have to panic, give up, start to cheat, lose control, or begin to take uncalled-for risks to get the results you want right now.
Genuine faith is eminently practical, and that vast resource for inner knowing stands ready to assist today's leader who will exercise it. Faith in something bigger than you isn't a passive emotion; it's an active belief that requires you to step onto the field and walk your talk. Doing something unethical or dishonest would erode my self-esteem—my image of who I am as a person. If I did something that was not right, I would have trouble facing my family.
I strive to make sure that what I say and what I do are the same. Dealing with others in a leadership capacity will test your character, especially if your role is a highly visible one. You should expect the pressures and be ready for them by becoming as clear as you can about what you believe, what's good enough for you, and how you need to treat people in order to get the job done."
In his book Practical Modern Basketball, Coach Wooden was direct in describing the critical importance of honesty:
"A coach must be sincere and honest in every phase of his/her work. He/she might lack something in knowledge and technique and still get along, but his/her fate is failure if he/she is lacking in honesty and sincerity."
People want the truth. Do you give it to them?