People Power: The measure of great leadership - March 2020

By Sam Allman

Well, he finally did it. Andy Reid earned a Super Bowl ring. Reid has 221 wins as a head coach in the NFL and 15 playoff appearances. That win-Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida-was just his second Super Bowl in a career that has included five losses in conference championship games, among them last year’s defeat against New England. Despite what some already call a Hall-of-Fame career, Reid had yet to win that elusive championship. But he has now.

Kansas City’s beloved pro football franchise hadn’t been to the Super Bowl in 50 years-and there were lots of reasons Chiefs players wanted to win the game against the San Francisco 49ers. But winning a championship for their coach clearly mattered.

To me, it felt like everyone was rooting for Andy Reid. As sports columnist Dick Harmon of the Deseret News put it, “How can you not cheer for a guy who has come this close to winning it all but has been denied? He has taken 15 of his 21 teams to the playoffs, seven times to the conference championship game, where he has won only twice. He has taken both the Eagles and the Chiefs to the Super Bowl, one from each conference.” ABC Sports commentator Ducis Rodgers encouraged Eagles fans to root for the Chiefs “because he’s part of Eagles history.” In the final two weeks before the game, the media was full of stories of many former athletes who played under Coach Reid-even coaches from different teams-who were cheering for him, as well.

It seems that everyone except the San Francisco 49ers and their fans were rooting for Reid and the Chiefs. I wonder, what does it takes to get others to root for you and be happy for your success? Did they root for him because he had yet to win the elusive prize of the Super Bowl? Did they feel sorry for him? Did they root for him because he is nice guy, and nice guys finish last and don’t win Super Bowls? What kind of leadership would you expect of a Super Bowl coach? “Nice” is not one of the descriptors I would use.

Why were so many rooting for him? To me, the answer is what separates greatness in leadership from the, rest.

When I think of great leaders, I think of Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesus Christ. Some say the measure of leadership is results. But greatness in leadership is not just measured by results. The fact is, results can be generated without great leadership. History is replete with stories of despots and poor leaders who got results through coercion, fear or promising rewards. Leadership had nothing to do with it. It was the abuse of power, of people and of truth.

A common definition of a leader is someone with followers, according to leadership theorist Ken Blanchard. Without followers, there is no leader. That’s why being a boss, a CEO, coach or manager makes you a leader in name only. Great leadership generates followers that choose to follow of their own free will. They are not coerced or rewarded for choosing to follow. The fact is that many of us choose to follow bosses because of fear (losing a job, being punished) or because of the rewards that are offered (money, promotions), even if we don’t like them or agree with their leadership style. Research has shown that workers will stay with bad bosses or leaders only until they can find something else. Greatness in leadership is exemplified in constituents who choose to follow because the leader is honored for the kind of person he or she is. I think the reason so many cheered for Reid is because not only is he a great coach and leader but also a great human being, one who is honored and worthy of emulation.

“The true measure of a man is how his life is reflected in deeds, how he traverses adversity and how his image is created, cast and stored in the minds of those who’ve crossed his path,” wrote Harmon. “If that’s the standard, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid easily makes the Mankind Hall of Fame.”

Great leaders have power and influence over others because it is gifted by those who choose to become followers. This power cannot be demanded or coerced; it can only be granted. Think about it. Whom do you honor and respect enough to follow? Why? Have you had a coach, teacher, mentor or family member whom you honor and who has influence over you? It’s usually not because that person is a great leader. It’s because that person is a great human being who treats you well. Becoming a great person precedes becoming a great leader.

Great human beings want to make a difference. Their purpose is dedicated to improving the lives of others. So they impact and influence the lives of anyone with whom they come in contact. They are attentive to the concerns of others, empathize with them and nurture them. Empathy is the root of compassion. Therefore, great human beings are kind and forgiving. Empathy changes their mindsets from selfishness to selflessness. Their focus changes from “me” to “them.” Walking in the shoes of others opens their minds to different perspectives. As empathy expands, a mind will cease judging, move to understanding and then to valuing others. That’s why great human beings are kind and forgiving. As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

Great leadership cares both for the people who follow and the results desired. The means are as important as the ends. Great leadership is paradoxical; it runs counter to common sense. It requires the leader to focus one eye on the goal-the results-and the other eye on how their constituents are treated. Reid is a great leader because he generates results and constituents who feel valued and appreciated. Being a good person doesn’t make you a leader, let alone a great one. Great leadership is far more sophisticated and complex than that.

Great humans empower others to achieve, to win, to stretch and to develop their potential. Great humans use their compassion to inspire others to continue when life is hard and to never give up. When you believe in people, they rise to greatness. One of the greatest challenges a leader faces: helping people believe in themselves! Walmart founder Sam Walton said, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” People who have self-confidence develop the creativity to dream, the boldness to venture into the unknown and pursue their dreams, and the courage and persuasiveness to summon help along the way.

Ironically and paradoxically, compassion for others or choosing to put the needs of others ahead of yours will generate personal happiness. It is said that you can’t buy happiness. Trust me, I have learned from my 75 years of life that stuff won’t make you a happier person. And even the success and wealth you desire won’t make you happier now. Those things give only temporary pleasure. Psychologists researching happiness have repeatedly found that these things don’t buy lasting happiness. In fact, research shows that wealth can actually decrease happiness. Compassion, however, increases it. And it’s the hallmark of a great human being.

Compassion should drive everything you do if you want greater life satisfaction. Even if your goal is not to become a great human being, compassion will, at least, provide you a better quality of life. It should influence how you interact with others-and how you treat yourself. Developing this trait may require a fair amount of effort, but it will be worth it. By focusing your attention on someone else’s problems, you become less preoccupied with your own worries. Your brain becomes energized as you try to be part of someone else’s solution, which allows you to tackle your own problems with renewed vigor.

We are naturally ego-driven, self-centered and selfish. Being compassionate requires choice and effort. Depending on where we are in our lives, compassion and caring for others is easier at certain times than others. Reid’s example demonstrates that humanity and leadership (coaching) can coexist in a locker room or board room at the same time.

The world would be a better place if there were more humans like Andy Reid. Whether you are to be a leader or not, become first a great human being. As Blaine Lee, author of The Power Principle, said, “You will never be more effective as a leader than you are as a person.”

Copyright 2020 Floor Focus