Friday, April 23, 2010

Thinking again about leadership

I've been reminded this week through media reports about events taking place in the sports, political and education worlds about leadership. Sometimes leadership seems easy to find, and at other times it seems as elusive as catching air.

Consider just one example to help illustrate my point: The Denver Broncos have been criticized in some quarters for selecting former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in the NFL Draft. Picking Tebow in and of itself was not a bad decision, in the minds of the football analysts who seem convinced that they are paid by the word. Rather, the Broncos made a poor choice for moving up the draft board to pick up a quarterback who is not ready to play in the NFL.

Yet, I was baffled at the same time as I listened to these bloviators praising Tebow for his leadership ability, for his ability to rally his teammates and for his confidence to remain true to the ideals he professes.

In other words, Tebow is the kind of person more NFL teams should be interested in acquiring -- someone who will inspire his teammates and stay out of trouble. (Are you listening Ben Roethlisberger?)

In fact, my chin almost crashed to the floor this morning when I heard one person say that he was rooting for Tebow to succeed in the NFL. Why? Because he was a good guy, a fiery competitor and a leader. Interesting. Tebow is a role model, an inspirational figure and admirable.

Aren't those the kinds of qualities we want to see in people, no matter the career path they select?

As Tebow basked in the glow of being chosen in the draft's first round -- something the experts didn't think was likely -- less than 20 minutes later, Dez Bryant was picked by the Dallas Cowboys.

Bryant is the antithesis of Tebow -- ready for the NFL, brash and someone whose past leaves people asking about the quality of his character. In fact, the bloviators were left to wonder last night if Bryant would have gone even higher in the draft had he not had those questions surrounding him.

No one I listened to considered Bryant a leaders. No one suggested he possesses the ability to inspire his teammates. Instead Bryant came off as an all-too-typical athlete -- immensely talented but someone whom you wouldn't necessarily want as your next door neighbor or dating your daughter.

I heard no one this morning praising the Cowboys for moving up and making a deal to get the talented Bryant. I heard no one saying Bryant was a good guy.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not picking on Dez Bryant, and I'm not suggesting he's a goon who within a year will be heading off to the NFL commissioner's office to get a stern lecture about behavior. Nor am I claiming that Tebow is some perfect human being who will never get into trouble.

What I am saying, however, is that on one particular night, two young men who might never be involved in a substantive play during a game in which the other is on the sidelines were nevertheless drawn together by strange parallels.

Each was drafted late in the first round. Each was drafted as part of a trade in which their team moved up the draft board in order to get them. And each was selected where they were largely because of their leadership and character. Therefore, however fair it is, they will be compared as their careers develop, as the bloviators and others assess which team made the proper move on one draft night.

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