'When the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks - not that you won or lost - but how you played the game.' That was an idealistic vision of the game of American football penned by sportswriter Grantland Rice. But Vince Lombardi, ultra-successful coach of the Green Bay Packers team, had another point of view: 'Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.'
When he was McLaren team boss Ron Dennis tended to subscribe to the Lombardi theory, though he tempered that fierce will to win with a highly developed sense of fair play. A major part of Dennis's role was handling the drivers in his team, a task that might be described as ego management, particularly when he was the employer of the feuding Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost...
Ron Dennis: "The relationship between any two human beings is a very complicated thing, like in a marriage, and the drivers' relationship is very, very complicated. But the negative aspects of having two such drivers can be turned to produce a motivating force. However, as in any finely tuned situation, you walk a tightrope between falling off it into failure and successfully getting to the other side. That's the challenge. The challenge is to try to understand their negative differences, try to isolate them, then turn them into positives. I'm not a marriage counsellor but I think guidance and support are the words to use when it comes to handling the drivers. I have to support and guide them through racing problems and human problems.
"We all have an intense desire to win, and these desires tend to put people in a sort of personality showcase, and therefore you get a complex situation. It brings out both weakness and strength of character. And if you can identify the weaknesses in individuals, you can provide the support structure to compensate. And that's what I believe good personnel management's about. It's about giving the support structure to the individual, from the mechanics through to the drivers.
"A team by its nature is a group of human beings, and human beings make mistakes. No one's perfect. But if you are in a position of 'this is where the buck stops', then you have to take responsibility for all the actions of all the people in the team. So if something goes wrong, a driver makes an ill-conceived comment, or a team member does something wrong, or makes a mistake that is careless, then in taking the responsibility, you take the pain with it.
"The only way I measure my own performance is by my own values…You really have to keep your mind focussed and watch that everything functions in an optimum way. It's damn hard. Very wearing, and very fatiguing, and not made any easier when it's criticized.”
(text from Grand Prix People - photo of RD+GD from Teamwork)