Several years ago, Pete Carroll was the head football coach at the University of Southern California. During his tenure, the school won three NCAA championships. In the last 20 years, only Nick Saban has enjoyed a better record as a college football coach.

Pete left USC in advance of a scandal that involved Heisman winner Reggie Bush and pay-for-play. Although his involvement was never proven, Carroll's awareness is hard to refute. As a football fan and a previous fan of Carroll, I was disappointed. What I learned later was that he uses personal setbacks (even the self-inflicted ones) as productive lessons and for forward propulsion.

Three years ago, Pete became the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He has put together a team that is an acknowledged powerhouse, led by a quarterback on the verge of stardom (more on Russell Wilson later).

Carroll has always interested me, and both his leadership style and substance should be instructive for you as well. Some data points:

• He combines unbridled enthusiasm, an optimistic outlook and an obsession with winning. The lesson: One doesn't have to be dour or appear demonic to be an effective leader and command respect. Pete doesn't demand respect; he's like a pied piper.

• He employs sports psychologist Mike Gervais to work with his guys in areas traditionally off-limits for a team shrink. Mike isn't there primarily to help guys navigate through tough issues, although he does that, but rather to establish a positive mind-set and a holistic approach to health. Meditation, yoga, visualization and positive affirmations have become a regular part of the Seahawks' routine. The lesson: Conformity only guarantees conformity, not success. In a business in which today's innovation is tomorrow's commonplace, Pete doesn't rely on precedent. He'll experiment. He's not afraid to learn from mistakes and change course, but he doesn't do it haphazardly (see the next bullet).

• Pete has used his coaching career as a learning laboratory. After one mediocre attempt (with the Patriots) and one failed attempt (with the Jets) as an NFL head coach in the 1990s, he underwent a lot of introspection. Studying the philosophy of the great John Wooden (Google him for info), he decided to examine, question and articulate his personal mission and goals. Since that time, he has refined them and aligned them with his approach to his craft. John Wooden created his now famous Pyramid of Success; Pete created his Win Forever philosophy. At the top of his pyramid is "Knowing You're Going to Win." At the bottom of his pyramid, he articulates his beliefs, style, and rules. His players acknowledge the explicit nature with which Carroll's framework appears in his personal conduct and expectations of others. If you're gonna talk it, you have to walk it!

• He defied convention when selecting then rookie Russell Wilson to be his quarterback. Here's what happened: Before the 2012 season, Pete and Seahawks General Manager John Schneider decided to pay then Green Bay Packers back-up quarterback (and free agent) Matt Flynn a gazillion dollars to play for Seattle. Previously, during his few appearances as a starter with the Packers, especially one in which he threw six touchdown passes in relief of injured starter Aaron Rodgers, Flynn impressed everyone in the league.

In the NFL draft the same year, Carroll and Schneider drafted Russell Wilson to be a second or third string back-up. A bit about Wilson: He graduated from North Carolina State in three years with honors. As the school's starting quarterback, he set numerous records. From his high school years in Richmond, Virginia through college, his teachers and coaches all acknowledged his special qualities as a student, athlete, and citizen.

During his third year at N.C. State, he was also drafted by major league baseball and projected to be an eventual MLB starter. After playing one summer in the minor leagues, Wilson decided that his heart was really with football. He had one year of eligibility left, but N.C. State decided to move on with another QB. Taking advantage of an arcane and little invoked rule that allows an early graduating athlete to complete his eligibility at another school without sitting out a year, Russell enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and became their starting quarterback and team captain while pursuing a master's degree. During his single season at Wisconsin, Wilson set several NCAA passing records and took the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.

The only problem with Wilson was/is this: He's only 5'11" tall, which is small for a quarterback. When Carroll and Schneider talked to him before the draft, however, they were struck by his poise, intelligence, thoughtfulness, values, and humility. He was so impressive that Carroll later commented that he and Schneider thought Russell was too good to be true; that it must be "an act." Their further investigation revealed that Wilson was as he portrayed himself and, despite his height, they drafted him.

During his rookie training camp, Russell blew everyone away and here's the kicker: Carroll selected Wilson to be his starting quarterback over Matt Flynn – their highly paid free-agent signing. The rest, as they say, is history.

How many leaders would have been willing to make the same move – to run the risk of changing course and looking like capricious buffoons in their pursuit of success? Would you? Are you willing to go with your gut on occasion, especially regarding really important decisions, or do you play it safe?

The Seahawks are poised to move into the upper echelon of NFL teams. With Carroll as their coach and Wilson as their trigger-man, they currently sit atop the NFC West.

Successful leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. One attribute that I've noticed that successful leaders have in common is their concern with who they are – their character and values – and the consistency with which they apply those to their business comportment.

Copyright 2013 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit