Weeks ago, news came out that shocked the football world, and the country. Michael Sam, an NFL hopeful, announced that he was gay. He became the first possible openly gay player in the NFL. Speculation began to creep up about whether or not players in the NFL would be ok with having a gay teammate. I want to point out why Michael Sam was a terrific leader in the situation.
Good leaders do what is right, which may not always be the easy thing to do. They can face backlash and criticism. However, Michael worked up the courage to let everyone know he was gay. He did this just months before the NFL draft. He came out when the responses to his announcement could’ve ruined his chance to play in the NFL. He did this because he is not scared of who he is. Great leaders acknowledge who they are, and don’t try to hide it. Instead they thrive off of it.
Not many people would do what Sam did. His leadership and lack of fear could lead to the floodgates opening in the future. Maybe now, more gay players will come forward and join Michael in being openly gay. This monumental decision that was made could lead to opportunities for others, which is exactly what a leader does. He takes the fear out of the followers and leads by example. Michael Sam’s announcement has lead to some skepticism by some current NFL players, but instead of hiding who he is, he came out and made a decision that only great leaders would make.
Recently, in Business Ethics class, we watched a video on the rise and fall of Barton Watson, founder of CyberNET Engineering. I found a lot of interesting points in the film that dealt with leadership, or lack there of. Now Barton became very rich very quickly. He resold Compaq computers and helped with installation for customers. Although his intentions seemed good on the outside, what was actually going on inside the company was very troubling. Barton began taking loans based off of forged financial statements, which lead to obtaining luxury cars, houses, etc. This lead to FBI investigations, and the eventual arrest of Watson. The actual story itself is not what I want to get across. My point is that there was a flawed sense of leadership that lead to this outcome.
Barton, from the start, could care less about his employees and how they would be affected by his actions. He completely ostracized his followers. Many employees complained about him hiding information from them, and not giving them the time of day to talk with him. The only opinion he valued was his own, and if you disagreed, you were sent packing. Also, some employees had their suspicions and doubts, but the ones that were doing ok at the company seemed to let their doubts slide. No one took initiative, because at the end of the day, they had a job that provided them profit. I think also they were scared to approach Barton about his tactics. This is another good example of a case where when things are going ok, ethics don’t always come first.
Barton’s main leadership flaw was that he didn’t care about his followers, and didn’t make them feel important. He did things on his own whether the employees agreed or not. With this attitude, eventually someone is going to blow the whistle of the operation, which was what happened. In the end, alienating your followers does not help out your case, but instead eventually crumbles your team and turns your followers against you.
Although the Super Bowl was a lopsided game, I saw leadership traits in Peyton Manning that many other quarterbacks don’t display. As the quarterback, you are the leader of the team, and how you react is usually how your followers are going to act. Peyton got crushed in the Super Bowl, but never lost his humility. He was classy about the loss. He was seen congratulating the other team, talking to reporters after the game, and keeping his head up after a tough day. His demonstration of professionalism was noted by Richard Sherman, a Seahawks cornerback, who called him “the classiest player he has ever played against.” I see the way Peyton reacted as a sign of a great leader. He could have easily put his head down, pouted, or blamed teammates but he chose the high road. He gave his respect to the Seahawks, and tried to stay positive. Peyton knows this attitude will help his teammates out as well. When the team is down, they are going to look to the leader. In this case, they were looking at a leader who continued to keep his head up and refused to have a huge loss set him back for next year.