Ray Lewis Football Game

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some leaders are vocal, and some are quiet. Some are solitary; some are great collaborators.

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Thoughts on Leadership Inspired by a Team of Destiny

  • 3/11/2013

Thoughts on Leadership Inspired by a Team of Destiny

The Baltimore Ravens were arguably one of the weaker playoff contenders. They had lost four of their last five games, and pundits were hardly acknowledging them as a serious Super Bowl possibility. A few weeks later, Baltimore emerged as Super Bowl champions. From this unlikely victory, leaders in every endeavor can find inspiration and motivation to face challenges and overcome incredible odds.

I’ll be honest, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is not my hero, some of his off-the-field actions don’t make him an easy man to hold up as a role model. However, his actions leading up to the Super Bowl have inspired some interesting thoughts about the impact of confidence on performance. Lewis’ statements about Baltimore being a “team of destiny” helped rally a struggling team and gave them a purpose that fueled their efforts and elevated their performance. The result was that the Ravens pulled together as a team and emerged victorious.

Part of something bigger

When Lewis talked about the Ravens as being a team of destiny, he touched on a common desire in all of us. Everyone, deep down, wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. When you believe you make a difference, you are motivated to fulfill that belief.

No story illustrates this fact better than President Kennedy’s visit to the NASA space center in 1962. Spotting a janitor carrying a broom, the president interrupted his tour, walked over to the man, and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?” The janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr. President.”

Everyone’s contribution is important in a true team effort.

Business owners and leaders must provide a sense of direction and purpose for their teams. Am I making automotive parts on a shop floor or am I improving the safety of automobiles for the families that drive them? As an owner, that sense of purpose motivated you to take enormous risk to start your business and build your dream. Sharing the passion of that dream with your team can motivate them to pursue your shared goals with the same intensity.

The power of self-confidence

Whether you are a linebacker, a quarterback, or a CEO, a good leader knows that a clear sense of purpose, combined with confidence, will elevate the performance of those around you.

After the recent recession and the daily dose of dour economic news, all employees can use a shot of confidence. Business is always a challenge, and it always will be. In the absence of affirmative messages from leaders, people tend to obsess about the difficulties in front of them and lose sight of the progress they are making.

Confidence is contagious. You understand the hurdles in front of you, yet you have chosen to stay in the game. Share that confidence and your belief in your people on a regular basis. Like a coach or a team captain, share it often. People look to a leader for direction, inspiration, and the confidence to persevere through day-to-day challenges. More importantly, a leader can inspire those who will become future leaders.

Leaders make a difference (and they come in all shapes and sizes)

Some leaders are vocal; some are quiet. Some are solitary; some are great collaborators. Ray Lewis is merely one example of a leader. His contribution to his team extended well beyond his individual talent as a linebacker. He understood that his actions could impact the players on his team as well as the entire organization. You can debate his methods, and you can question some of his personal choices, but the bottom line is that he was able to inspire his teammates to see beyond the challenges in front of them and keep their eye on a bigger goal.

Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” In the end, we may not have a Vince Lombardi as a leader in our organizations. We may not have a Ray Lewis either. What most companies have are human beings — imperfect people — who are capable of making a difference, capable of inspiring, capable of stirring people to attempt to accomplish extraordinary feats.

Leading is hard, and it requires enormous reserves of energy to guide people through life’s challenges. However, if you can inspire confidence within the members of your team, the effects are difficult to hold down.

Just ask the San Francisco 49ers.