Thoughts on Leadership: Out of Luck

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Minneapolis for the HomeServices of America, Inc. Central Region CEO Meeting. I spoke to the group about the West Coast Offense for running a real estate brokerage and we also discussed market updates and challenges, technology initiatives at our organization, the state of mortgage, operational excellence, leadership development, and warranty and legal issues. It was a thoroughly organized and thought-provoking meeting on ways we can advance our brokerage networks forward.

And forward I went, on to the HomeServices of America board meeting then had a great one-on-one meeting with Jeff Detwiler, president and CEO at The Long & Foster Companies.

Today I flew back to Northern California for a meeting with Chris Rosati, president and CEO of HomeServices Insurance Group. As I write this now post-meeting, I’m on my way to the San Francisco Giants game with Chris and a few other friends.

Sports weighed heavily on my mind this week – particularly football – as the news that NFL.com described as a “bombshell” broke over the weekend: After seven seasons as quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck announced his retirement following the team’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears. The Colts drafted Luck, a Stanford graduate, in 2012, the first overall draft pick. I actually have a personal connection to Luck, as his Stanford games were played right in my own backyard; Stanford is just a few miles up Foothill Expressway from my house.

His rookie season was electrifying, and he set several records that year, including single-season passing yards (4,374) and single-game passing yards (433). He also broke Peyton Manning’s previous franchise record for passing yards during the 2014 season, recording a new high of 4,761 passing yards that year. In his seven seasons with the Colts, Luck posted four seasons with more than 4,000 passing yards. He ranked in the top five for most passing touchdowns (171) and most passing yards (23,671) in a player’s first six seasons in the NFL. There was no denying it, the 29-year-old quarterback was a force on the field, headed for greatness.

Well, what happened?

In his own words, Luck said: “For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab – injury, pain, rehab – and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in season and off season. I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy out of this game.”

Luck experienced three injury-hampered seasons, missing all of 2017. When he left the field Saturday night, some fans booed him, others – like Colts head coach Frank Reich – showed their unwavering support.

During a recent press conference, Reich had this to say about Luck’s retirement: “Andrew did the right thing for himself and for the team, knowing the requirement and commitment that’s needed for the journey ahead. He did the courageous thing and the honorable thing.”

Luck’s injuries included: torn cartilage in two ribs, a torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney, a concussion and a torn labrum. He also suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss some of 2019 training camp. According to the Colts ownership, Luck earned almost $100 million in his seven years with the team and in retiring, walked from potentially $500 million.

However, his is a cautionary tale about the price we pay – quite literally – for our health and happiness. As Luck’s story proves, leadership takes more than skills to succeed. It also takes heart and when your heart isn’t in it, you can’t possibly move forward, or inspire others to grow. A large part of Luck’s monumental decision wasn’t just his physical well-being but his mental state; he simply wasn’t in the right mindset to compete. His love for what he did wasn’t there anymore.

So, what’s the message? Leadership takes passion. It takes courage and vision and insight. It also takes the ability to know when to keep going and when to let go, step aside and give others the chance to lead. In a Forbes article about the retirement, Senior Contributor Jack Kelly writes: “Prepare every day to lead your best, most rewarding life on your own terms. Think of what you really want to do and achieve in your career and go for it.” Sometimes this means ringing in another championship season and sometimes it means giving up the championship rings. Passions and enthusiasm have to be the driving forces behind all of our endeavors. When we lead with those ideals, then no matter what happens next, we’ll always, always win.

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