It was January 1981, and our high school football team was being honored at a banquet for winning the first state championship that our town had experienced in a long time. I was a sophomore on that team and played enough to earn a letter (back in those days that was a big deal), but did not play one down in the playoff games. My biggest contribution to that team was that I played scout team quarterback during practice. In those days, everything was live tackling and there were no red jerseys (don’t tackle them) for the quarterbacks. I took a beating every Tuesday and Wednesday at practice. I like to think we did a good job of preparing our defense for the Friday night games. I guess all that hard work and willingness to keep getting up was noticed by the coaching staff. That evening I was presented the sophomore coaches award. While the award was a great surprise and recognition, the best part of the evening was getting to shake hands with our guest speaker of the night, Grant Teaff, the head football coach at Baylor University.
Baylor had just won their second conference title under Teaff. That was a huge accomplishment for a school competing in the same conference as the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, etc. Teaff was someone that was well known in our part of the country at that time. I had listened to his tapes, read one of his books, and had become very interested in his teams during that time period. I still recall his message that night. He didn’t spend too much time talking about his success at Baylor or how he had transformed a perennial loser in that tough conference to a major competitor. Rather, he talked about his desire to have a positive influence over young people through the game of football. He talked about his quarterback that had such a stuttering problem that he could barely call a play his freshman year. He talked about a 5’6” tailback that wasn’t recruited by anyone else. He talked about kid after kid that he and his coaching staff invested in over the years. While they had success on the field, Teaff talked more about what these young people were going on to do in life.
That night impacted me greatly. Here was a leader talking about caring for others, challenging others to achieve, helping others overcome obstacles, and holding others accountable. From listening to him that evening, I could clearly see why people followed his leadership.
The essence of leadership is influence, and this coach sure embodied that character. He was surely someone people would follow.
That really leads us to ask the question: Are you a leader worth following?
To answer that question, one has to go a little deeper in questioning.
1. Do followers trust that you are looking out for their best interest?
2. Do you have credibility with those you lead?
3. Do followers know that you genuinely care about them?
4. Do you consistently hold followers accountable for their actions/performance and the impact it has on the overall group?
5. Do you communicate clearly and concisely with respect to what needs to be done, how to do it, and why it matters?
6. Do you regularly communicate with followers on how they are performing and give them a chance to share concerns?
7. Do you make the tough decisions for the group and take responsibility for the results?
Hey, that’s 7 closed end questions to just get you thinking. The real question for each of us to consider is: Are the followers better off because you’re their leader?
Just give it some honest thought. Are they better because you’re leading?
If you struggle with that question or any of the proceeding questions, it’s really just a matter of making it a priority. It’s so easy to get caught up with all the duties of supervising or managing that leading gets forgotten about. Supervising and managing take skill, experience, knowledge, etc. Leading just takes all those attributes in someone and comes out when someone decides they want to have an influence and/or impact. So to some degree, leadership is a choice. A choice that each one reading this note will need to make.
I go back to that original question: Are you a leader worth following?