Leadership in the NFL

Published February 23rd, 2016 by David Tyree

Leadership is a dynamic that is so natural yet so murky. It is so inspirational yet so tragic. This is true on the basis that there are people involved.  Anytime there are people involved fallibility exists. Leadership flows from the river of an individual's life. One's life ultimately consists of what they believe and the ability to live what they believe. The X-factor oftentimes in this simple equation becomes the individuals' motives or motivation for all of their living. Without breaking this down much further  we can all observe how difficult it is to cultivate and identify leaders today.

An important factor to consider in this conversation is how can an individual be a great leader and a bad leader without contradiction?  It is easy to look through the annals of history and highlight Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, and Winston Churchill as leaders that have influenced nations through their convictions and ability to move their audience toward a common goal. These are obvious great leaders. But what about individuals like Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. Didn't they effectively live what they believe and impact their nation and move them toward a common purpose? Absolutely, these men were great leaders, but they were equally bad or evil leaders the entire world grew to despise and their legacy reflects it.

This is a conundrum we have faced since human inception. The moment we introduce good, bad, right, or wrong we are introducing the demand for moral accountability. We not only expect people to be able to do their job, but we expect you to be a decent person while you're going about your job.

So it is today, we have NFL players who off the strength of talent and opportunity, immediately become a greater influence than some of our nations longstanding political leaders. Yet, their unrefined morality finds them guilty of everything from fraud to even murder. The question becomes, How do we transform a great influencer into a noble leader?

Let's take my life as an example:

In 2003, at the age of twenty-three I entered the National Football League with the mantra that football is life. I excelled beyond my peers entering into this elite fraternity of men. Having graduated from Syracuse University in four years it is easy to conclude I had a built considerable amount of influential equity. With those external accolades alone, it would appear that I would be an example worth taking note of.

That is until the following year, when my life was unraveled and the person I truly was came to the surface. I was exposed as a fraudulent representation of a good influence. In that moment the one thing I knew for certain was that I didn't know anything. My worldview was at stake!  As much as I believed football was life, I realized that it didn't cultivate the character necessary to sustain the platform I had inherited as a professional athlete.

Today, over ten years removed from the personal failure which sparked my redemptive purpose, I am considering the landscape of leadership in America. I can only conclude that we are at a great deficit of moral integrity amongst leadership, which can only lead to the erosion of a culture. So much so that now we are looking to our modern day heroes and gladiators of the gridiron for hope and inspiration.

Any good leader is going to have to meet the the standard of uprightness to leave a lasting impact. This is the standard the young men of the NFL must ascend to. While proven examples of men with high integrity are scarce, they do exist amongst the NFL population which gives us all hope.

May the entirety of your life serve as an inspiration to all that you have influence with.