Leadership makes all the difference

Well, Super Bowl LI is in the books, and no matter which team you were cheering for, you must admit the Patriots made an epic comeback. After trailing 28-3 at one point, they rallied to get within striking distance of tying the game in the fourth quarter. By then it was clear that the momentum had shifted unmistakably away from the Falcons to the Patriots, so that it seemed like only a matter of time before they would close the gap and go for the victory.

How do comebacks like this happen? One answer would be the talent and energy of the team, performing as a cohesive unit. While that is certainly a factor, there is something else that is perhaps even more critical, and that is leadership. I was convinced of this, once again, as I listened to Tom Brady answering a question by Terry Bradshaw in an interview that aired during the Fox Sports pregame show.

Brady articulated the essence of his role as quarterback this way: “You get in the huddle and you call those plays, you have 10 other guys that are feeling your energy. And what are you putting off? Are you putting off confidence? Are you putting off fear? You know, they can feel all that. And when they get in the huddle with me, I want to look in their eyes, and I want them to feel a belief that we're gonna do it."

               Isn’t that awesome? There is probably no better synopsis of the soul of leadership than that. You can read tons of books and take endless courses on leadership theory, but you’re not truly leading until you can inspire others to greater things as Brady described.

So, what does that mean for us? One of the beautiful things about the Air Force is the ability for anyone and everyone, wherever they find themselves, to take the journey of leadership. But one thing is for certain: the journey starts with you; in other words, who you are, and what you do. Here are several key questions to ask yourself: Is my life marked by integrity, so that others will trust both what I say and what I do? Also, Do I possess a level of optimism that allows me to stare straight into the most difficult situations and still believe we can emerge victorious?

The fact is, those qualities are rare, but they are also contagious. People are willing to follow those who have them. In the biblical book of Psalms, King David is described as one who led his nation with “integrity of heart” and “skillfulness of hands.” (Psalm 78:72)

               So, whether you’re elated or annoyed by the outcome of the game, don’t fail to see the intangible quality of leadership that became the catalyst for victory. How do you get better at it? Start where you are, practice the same way you play, be great in the small moments and you’ll be ready for the big ones!