Looking back many years now, I reflect back on one of my first real clarifying moments of leadership. I was moving up from the freshman football team to the varsity and going through fall practice. I noticed the seniors that played the higher profile positions being very vocal during warmup and pregame activities. These guys were also tough on the younger guys and made practice and the locker room difficult at times. I guess we looked at these guys as being the leaders of the team, but as the fall practices went on and the season started, I noticed that these guys were not nearly as vocal, not out front, nor taking charge of anything when times were tough. Rather, I saw a couple of slightly undersized offensive lineman step forward and take charge in time of crisis, times of extreme challenge, and times of pure exhaustion. These guys were also the ones at practice early, the last to leave, and were the ones that would spend time talking to the younger guys throughout the day giving advice and encouragement.
John was one of these guys. I noticed he would be constantly pushing himself to get better every day and would always be encouraging and pushing others through difficult drills or game situations. He would regularly check in with younger players to make sure things were going ok with school and football. He didn’t have the glamor position, never got interviewed after the game, and never was written about in the newspaper. He just did his job on the line and was clearly the leader on that team! He was an example of commitment. He was a calming influence when things were chaotic. He was an encourager when things were tough. He was a fierce competitor when the challenges were steep!
I learned early that year, that leadership was not the position we hold, but rather what we do! We are known by our actions. You can be given a title of manager or supervisor, but your actions dictate whether you are a leader or not.
Leaders care about those they lead.
Leaders provide clarity of direction.
Leaders live a life of example for others to follow.
Leaders sacrifice for the benefit of others.
Leaders communicate, encourage, and correct to ensure others are informed and stay on the path.
Leaders take responsibility for everything.
I think you get the idea. Leadership is a VERB!
During these challenging times we are in now, we need more people stepping up and leading than ever before. The opportunity to influence is there now like I have never seen it! Seize the opportunity.
By the way, we won the state championship that year in a very competitive classification in Louisiana. John went to West Point after high school; not surprising!