Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: A Lesson for the New Year

This week my travels found me in Northern California, working from my home office and preparing for the new year (although as I told you in an earlier post, my business plan has been set for months). Whenever I’m home, I meet my friend and former All-Pro defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams, Johnnie Johnson, for a weekly breakfast; this week was no exception. Fortunately, Johnnie’s sons, Kirk and Collin, were also in town—on break from college at the University of Texas—so they joined us as well.

Now, when I say these boys come from impressive lineage, I mean it. Johnnie himself played for the Longhorns almost 40 years ago, a two-time, unanimous All-American defensive back during his time at Texas and in 1978, named by the New York Downtown Athletic Club as the nation’s best DB. As described Johnnie’s football legacy, “In other words, he won the Thorpe award before the Thorpe award was in existence.”

His two football-playing sons, however, are shaping up to be no less impressive and have so far carved out quite a reputation as not only strong players on the field but also strong leaders off the field, motivating their fellow teammates and leading by example.

It’s a lesson for every one of us to learn—leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ages—and a testament to the fact that true leadership, the kind that inspires, impassions and invigorates, cannot be defined by anything other than one’s own will to succeed.

Former Texas Longhorns Head Coach Charlie Strong once said this about Kirk during a press conference: “I always tell my players if I want to just watch a player and watch the way things are done right, I tell them to watch Kirk Johnson.” Coach Strong went on to describe Kirk’s work ethic, technique and commitment to his job (he’s “always the first guy in the room”) and how those characteristics make him a shining example of leadership.

What’s the message? I couldn’t say it any better than Collin Johnson did when he explained his football philosophy to “It’s not really about the size of the dog in the fight; it’s about the size of the fight in the dog,” he said. “But I got both, because I have fight in me and heart.” (He’s also 6’6”, so he’s got some size himself.) This sentiment is similar to an idea echoed by John Wooden, who was widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. Wooden said, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” As the new year speedily approaches, think about these wise words and leadership concepts from Kirk, Collin and John Wooden. Remember, you shouldn’t feel limited or confined by what you don’t have; play full out and do your best to win every time. This way, no matter what the outcome of any situation, as long as you maintain a positive mindset and a fighting spirit, you can never really lose.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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