By Gino Blefari
This week my travels find me … at home (perhaps next week we’ll rethink this opening line). A good family friend of mine, Don O’Neill, sent me an interesting article this week, and I took some time to read through it and would like to summarize the leadership lessons I learned from it.
The story, by Eric Branch for the San Francisco Chronicle, was about San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. On the surface, the piece was about football but beneath the sport exterior it was really about leadership.
As the story goes, Raheem Mostert’s life completely shifted after the 49ers made it to Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2. A once-anonymous, often-released fourth-string running back even as recently as last year, Mostert was suddenly a sports star. Delivery drivers recognized him when they dropped off packages at his door. Suddenly, people knew his name.
With newfound fame came opportunities, among them a chance to sign autographs at a sports-card and memorabilia show that also featured legendary 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, Klay Thompson and Patrick Willis. Even with just 19 cases of the coronavirus in California, Mostert announced on Twitter he wouldn’t appear at the show. He said he had a 10-month-old-son and a pregnant wife and had to stay home for their health and safety.
“I wanted to look out for my family and everyone else,” he told the Chronicle. “I just want people to know that we have to play our role and do our part and have each other’s back.”
What other leadership lessons can be gleaned from Mostert’s insight and instincts? Here are a few more:
He has quickly adapted to his current situation. Leadership is about being agile to challenges. Leaders accept the challenge and find a solution to overcome it. Mostert, for instance, understands he has to stay at home but that hasn’t stopped him from preparing for the upcoming season. He borrowed weights from his father-in-law and completes running and agility drills on his driveway. Perpetual improvement doesn’t need to happen in the gym or in an office; it’s a mindset that can be fostered anywhere.
Even before coronavirus, he showed signs of resiliency. One of the most important characteristics for leaders right now is to be resilient in tough times. No matter how dire the situation seems, optimism can affect its outcome. Mostert was undrafted out of Purdue in 2015, was cut by six teams during his first 17 months in the NFL and went into last season with just 297 total rushing yards. At the end of 2019, including the playoffs, he rushed for 1,108 yards, scoring 15 touchdowns (13 rushing, two receiving). While teams let him go, he continued to fight, showing grit and toughness to prove them wrong and find a way to win.
He acknowledges fear but keeps swimming. In a 2020 story by Bleacher Report, Mostert told writer Tyler Dunne about a particular incident that happened when he was just 16 years old, surfing in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, the “Shark Attack Capital of the World.” He was waiting to catch a wave, feet dangling in the ocean, when his right hand dipped into the water and was met with a smooth, sharp fin. He knew immediately what was swimming near him: a shark. Close by, fellow surfers implored him to “stay calm.” So, he did, fighting off panic and fear and staying very, very still. Within moments, the fin went away. He paddled back to shore, composed himself and then kept on surfing.
He prioritizes serving others. “This isn’t’ about me,” he told the Chronicle. “We all have to make sure that we’re doing our part.” For Mostert, staying home, taking care of his family and spreading the message of staying safe is his best bet for serving his community, 49ers fans and, our nation. But this isn’t the first instance of Mostert’s altruism on display. In 2018, he had two moles removed and used the setback to create opportunity – he helped provide youth with knowledge and awareness about the dangers of skin cancer.
So, what’s the message? Examples of solid leadership abound during this time of global crisis. Zig Ziglar once said, “Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.” As a leader, our mission is simple: to lead. We set the examples others will follow. Like Raheem Mostert is doing, let’s make those examples count.
Photo Source: Raheem Mostert’s IG official account.