Archive for January 10, 2012

Jason Pierre-Paul: The Road to Success

Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end on the New York Giants, has earned the accolade of “Superman” from his teammates. With the speed and agility of a superhero, Jason’s talent is a dream come true for the team. But his success wasn’t obvious during his rookie season. As a Haitian-American who only played one year of high school football and one season of major college football, his first NFL season led many to think he was a bust. Teammate Justin Tuck admitted that at times during the first season he thought the Giants’ 15th pick was a mistake. Jason proved them wrong in 2011 and has started the new year with continued victory.

Jason’s increasing success is seen by many to be a God-given talent. Indeed, the football star has “Chosen” tattooed broadly across his chest, and every indication points to supernatural skills. At 6’5” and 278 pounds, his athleticism allows him to do nearly the impossible for a man of his size. Many forget, however, just how inexperienced Jason is; the only NFL games he has seen are the ones he plays in. The 23-year-old never watched football growing up and his playing experience nearly matched that before his professional career started. So what is it that makes him such a dynamic force? It’s simple:  his drive.

Early in life Jason learned about the strength and perseverance needed to overcome life’s obstacles. He grew up in a gang-ridden neighborhood in Deerfield Beach, Fla. where walking home from school was way more dangerous than playing football. Tragedy hit early, too:  when Jason was just 8 months old his father, Jean, went blind, leaving his mother Marie to work long days as a hotel cleaner to support their children. Over the years Jason and his three siblings talked less about their father’s disability and more about their mother’s remarkable strength. This determination to survive and then thrive is embodied in his playing.

Jason knew his capabilities in 2010 but the world hadn’t seen it yet. Instead of buckling under the pressure, he worked harder reviewing games and studying his teammates, constantly striving to improve. His practice is paying off, but Jason knows he has a lot more to offer. “I could be great,” Jason has said of himself. His unmistakable drive is a much a part of his success as his athletic talent.

January 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

Being your Own Kind of Leader a la Tim Tebow

Last Sunday prior to the game of the Broncos versus the Steelers, I have to admit that I committed blasphemy. I said to myself that surely “Poor Tebow, he doesn’t have a prayer against the Steelers. After all, this is the NFL not some peewee game”. Well, it’s true this was a game in the Big League and a playoff game for that matter. There are all kinds of lessons to be learned from Tim Tebow’s performance. One of them is that you can create your own pathway for success using your own set of unique skills and life experience.

This is not only true with on the field leadership in a game; it is true with all kinds of leadership. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) journal, the authors noted that after interviewing 125 leaders including CEOs, executives from non-profit, mid-career leaders and nonprofit that “they did not identify any universal characteristics, traits, skills, or styles that led to their success”.

The authors add:

“These findings are extremely encouraging: You do not have to be born with specific characteristics or traits of a leader. You do not have to wait for a tap on the shoulder. You do not have to be at the top of your organization. Instead, you can discover your potential right now”.

Imagine Tim Tebow trying to play like a conventional quarterback (QB)? This would be disaster. He is not even the best conventional QB on his own team. He only happens to be the best athlete to play the position.

There are too many people trying to fill the perceived “traditional” role of a leader or project the image or be the way it is expected for a leader to be. Well according to the study by HBR, there is no traditional role, characteristic or singular talent needed to be a leader.

Surely, if you’re a QB in the NFL, it helps to have a traditional motion to throw the ball, to be able to throw the ball down the field or be able to stay in the pocket and throw the ball. But you can also win enough games to be in the playoff using your unique talents a la Tim Tebow. Similarly, if you’re a leader it helps to be tall, have a voice that projects, have stage presence, have charisma or whatever other trait people deem desirable for a leader. However, you can also be effective as a leader without any of these characteristics if you use the strengths that come from your unique skills and life experience.

(The Harvard Business Review article mentioned is by Bill George, Peter Sims Andrew N. McLean and Diana Maya. It is entitled “Discovering your Authentic Leaderhsip” and appeared in the February 2007 issue).

January 10, 2012 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

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January 2012