Woman Leader Brought In To Fix NFL Embarrassment

Multiple news outlets, including the NY Times, published an announcement on July 7th, 2022 that the Las Vegas Raiders (sorry, I still think of them as the Oakland Raiders) hired Sandra Douglass Morgan as their President, the first African American woman to hold the role in N.F.L. history.

Why is this important for leadership?

The hiring of Ms. Morgan is important for three reasons:

First, in a male dominated sport, until recently it went against the established norms to hire a female senior executive. Three of my previous blogs talk to this point:

Second, Ms. Morgan is a person of color, and while the Rooney Rule (expanded this year to include women) doesn’t appear to be working in hiring head coaches of color, something does appear to be working in the front office with the hiring of a minority CEO.

Third, women handle problem-solving differently than men. Perhaps this will work well for both the Raiders and the National Football League.

Resolving well-known workplace issues might well be Morgan’s Job 1

The Raiders have had a dysfunctional environment for a long time. As The Times points out, “six of the eight top executives quit or were fired,” the past president resigned in July 2021, and his interim replacement was fired in May.

On top of that, if you are a sports fan, you know that John Gruden, the Raider’s headline-seeking coach, was forced to resign in October 2021 because of emails he wrote “in which he made misogynistic and homophobic remarks.”

How did this all turn bad for the Al Davis team? Whether or not you liked Davis, the Raiders from the 60s and 70s hired the first Latino and Black head coaches! And were very successful. (Note: Al Davis died in 2011 and his son owns the team now.)

Women get hired when there is a crisis.

Recent history has shown that boards (and sports franchises) hire women when there is a crisis at hand. Citigroup hired Jane Fraser when the bank was facing regulatory challenges, write-offs and earnings issues. General Motors appointed Mary Barra almost ten years ago when GM was in tumult, beset by recalls and corporate greed. And there are many more examples of women in CEO positions at public companies facing challenges.

At Simon Associates (SAMC), we were hired by a Pennsylvania college’s new female president after its previous male leader created a crisis of confidence, experienced declining enrollment, and mucked up the finances.

And to get even more personal, my wife Andi Simon, the founder and CEO of SAMC, was hired as the #2 at a division of M&T Bank because it made too many acquisitions too quickly and blew up its back office. So, M&T brought her in to successfully fix the situation.

Why women lead well in unstable and toxic environments

Often women bring different sets of skills which work well in difficult situations. Why? Here are some notable reasons:

  1. Women are consensus builders. While there are different ways to lead, building consensus in a stressed organization often refocuses it and allows it to move forward with a common goal.
  2. Women operate beyond their ego, continuing personal development and learning. In a white paper entitled “Women, Naturally Better Leaders for the 21st Century” written by Greg Young for LeaderShape, an Illinois-based leadership training institution, the author discusses how “business leaders who will be successful will be those who can ride the wave of this increasingly changing world…They will embrace collaborative relationships and be prepared to be radical in their thinking to build organizations that are fleet of foot and thrive on uncertainty and ambiguity.” Young goes on to say that these leaders will be able to:
    1. Embed authentic, ethical and emotionally intelligent behaviors into the DNA of the organization.
    2. Build strong, empathetic and collaborative relationships within the organization and with all stakeholders. Today, more and more companies recognize collaboration rather than competition as the way to create success.
    3. Develop a performance-enhancing culture that provides sustainability.
  3. Women are better than men at things like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Between 2006 and 2013, LeaderShape conducted original research using its executive development tool LEIPA (Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Performance Accelerator). Based on a 360° assessment format, it collected data on individual leadership-related behaviors and found that women outscored men on 15 of 19 these traits, including developing others, change catalyst, transparency, empathy and inspirational leadership.

The world is changing, and you need to be attuned to it.

Looking back over the past decades, we need to acknowledge that the world is changing, and that women can do things differently, often better, than their male counterparts.

For some examples, read my wife Andi Simon’s book, Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business. She tells the stories of 11 women (including herself) from different industries who opened possibilities for their professional careers by being authentic, taking risks and pushing obstacles others placed before them. These women, in effect, challenged the long-held beliefs about what they could and couldn’t do.

I bet Sandra Douglass Morgan will see beyond the horizon and push back against the obstacles that have been placed before her, attempting to eliminate the toxic environment that affects the Raiders’ organization. In many respects, just by agreeing to take the job, she already has.

If you would like to know more

Simon Associates Management Consultants is committed to helping women succeed, and we are playing a significant role in recrafting the narrative about what women can do in our society. Our research, workshops, executive and 1:1 coaching, speaking engagements, books and leadership academies are designed to help women have role models, support them as they venture into their own businesses or into corporate leadership, encourage them to achieve C-suite positions, and create companies with purpose. This is a time to live diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), not just talk it. Please contact us. We would love to start a conversation.

From Observation to Innovation,


Andy Simon
Partner, Simon Associates Management Consultants