There have been plenty of books written about the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there even was a book written by Dan Rooney himself titled, “Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL.” But this book is different, because this one is more about him, specifically his approach to leadership, his management and organizational styles, his beliefs and philosophies.
This book is titled, “A Different Way To Win: Dan Rooney’s Story, from the Super Bowl to the Rooney Rule,” and in the words of Jim Rooney, his son and the book’s author, it’s “part business bio, part memoir, and part history.”
“I understand my father wasn’t perfect, but I do think his story is an important one to get out there, particularly in light of the fact we live in a world where there’s so much drive toward instant gratification and quick fixes and things like that,” said Jim Rooney. “What I really saw my father do was take on some big initiatives and stick with them for a very long time. If you look at his work with NFL labor, if you look at his work in Ireland, if you look at the Rooney Rule – all of those things took years and in some cases decades where he was involved with them. His impact, where he was really effective, was in playing that long game and making sure he stuck with things, and that’s what I saw that really was different about him.”
By Rooney’s estimation, this project took upwards of two years to complete, and the final version came about via some 50-plus interviews with the likes of Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell, but also members of the Rooney family, people who worked in The White House, the U. S. State Department, and people in Ireland who are very familiar with what is known there as “The Troubles.”
“Patricia Hume is the wife of John Hume,” said Jim Rooney by way of identifying one of his interview subjects, “and John Hume won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his work in Ireland. We had this two-hour conversation, and Patricia was in tears about halfway through, and then I’m in tears. She was talking about all of the things my father did, and my mother, too, in going to Derry, a town that probably was the hardest hit place during ‘The Troubles.’ President Clinton visited Derry, and Tip O’Neill visited Derry, and she certainly appreciated those big visits, but she sort of told the story that over a 25-year period, my father, both my parents, were up there and making this commitment, this contribution, to a place that was just so hard-hit. To me, that was a really good example of his life, and it was a really meaningful moment to hear it from someone who was impacted so directly.”
The four main narratives addressed in this book are Dan Rooney’s work in the NFL; the Steelers of the 1970s and how he transformed the organization along with the great management team that he had there; his work in Ireland; and the Rooney Rule. The pathway to the Rooney Rule is charted, and the critical role Dan Rooney had in bringing it about is chronicled. The book portrays the final 15 years of Dan Rooney’s life as being the chief advocate for the Rooney Rule, and then explains how the Rooney Rule has gone beyond football and now is used by corporations internationally.
“What I wanted to get across, and what I saw my father do, was step into certain challenges and stay with them for such a long period of time, and that’s what I thought was different about the way he approached leadership,” said Jim Rooney.
“When you looked at the league, when you looked at Ireland, in all of these cases my father had this statement, ‘do the right thing.’ What he meant by that, and as it was explained by everyone I spoke to – it wasn’t about getting more money or getting more recognition, it was more about do you feel good about the decision you made because it impacted the community or the organization involved in a positive way. That’s fundamentally what he was all about, and we tried to put a bunch of stories in the book that exemplified that.”
And for Jim Rooney, having the opportunity to put on paper so many of the things he had seen his father accomplish under a cloak of humility was a labor of love.
“My experience wasn’t as much about new information, even though there certainly was some, but I did so many of the interviews right after he passed away – and I gave the example of Patricia Hume shedding tears – but it was almost this reflection, maybe even a little bit of grieving that I got to have with so many people who were important in his life. And to share those experiences, and we’ve tried to convey that experience in the book, because I was really touched by the way people were sharing with me, and it felt very authentic. It really felt there was this deep emotional connection, so that really was the biggest experience I took away from the interviews. Certainly there was a lot of good information and stories that helped bring the project about, but the emotional experience was really important to me.”
And what would he say to his father if he pointed out that he had written his own book?
“What’s in this book that wasn’t in that book is we really go into a lot of detail about the Rooney Rule, we talk a fair amount about his time as Ambassador, which is a really interesting experience,” said Jim Rooney, “and in his two years in Ireland, you get so many of the same examples that you get over 70 years of the rest of his career – that he went over there and the folks he worked with at Embassy Dublin talk about how he transformed their experience working in an embassy. Several of them told me it was by far and away their best time as career diplomats. I think those stories are ones my father would be glad are out there and would want people to hear.
“What I hope comes across is this idea that you can be strong, you can be principled, you can set really high standards, and you can also have this commitment to humanity. You can be decent and kind, while you’re being successful. That’s really what I saw him do over and over again, and that’s the experiences that were reflected back to me.”
Jim Rooney is the son of the late Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman and President Dan Rooney, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland during the Obama Administration. There was a press conference on Tuesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to announce a book authored by Jim Rooney, titled, "A Different Way To Win: Dan Rooney’s Story, from the Super Bowl to the Rooney Rule.” The book is described as part business bio, part memoir, and part history.