Can We Trust The Leaders Around Us?, Mike Lejeune


I’ve often wondered what it would be like to coach professional athletes. Can you imagine looking around a room filled with people who are world class in their talents and capabilities? How would you ever get them to listen to you or follow your guidance?


Recently I interviewed Jeff Paine, former Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Redskin linebacker (who I might add had a stellar career at Texas A &M) and we discussed motivators of top tier performers. Since he spent a few years as a starter playing defensive in the NFL, I asked him which coach had the strongest influence on him. Without hesitating Jeff said, “That’s easy, Joe Gibbs with the Redskins.”


Curious about his quick response, my follow up seemed to be just as easy to answer. “Each coach I played under brought their own unique and individual style. Some more intense than others. All driven to be winners. Joe Gibbs stood out because he got me.”


I immediately begin picturing game day footage of screaming intensity while the coach paces up and down the sidelines. Staff members working insane hours dissecting film, second guessing opposing teams to isolate key weaknesses to be exploited, etc.


And all he says, “He got me.”


In the world of testosterone filled, human war machines one of the primary connectors between leader and follower is the innate urge to be understood, to be known as not only the player but also the person. Recognition of what drives someone to reach deeper and farther. To care enough to be seen as a person, not just a part.


Coach Gibbs slowed down long enough to ask questions, either to or about his players beyond stats and charts. Focused on reaching beyond professional to become personal in questions which created the link that made players want to follow his guidance, and more importantly perform for the team and Gibbs.


Do you know the names of the kids of those on your team? What journey are they on personally or professionally that your organization will help them to realize? Have you asked someone why they are at your company, chose to work for the organization and a more scary question “for you?”  There is a huge difference between being a leader, manager or coach that we will address in the next post. However, there are two truths that prevail in the definition of each.


  1. Responsibility carries tremendous weight, which few followers seem to truly understand or many times even care about.
  2. Today’s work environment calls for blinding speed to get things done. We are gasping many times to generate results or to find balance in our lives.

To effectively lead under those pressure points, the greatest tool in our arsenal is the ability to listen with intent and no personal agenda. Game changing talent has choices today on who they follow. If we don’t care enough to slow down and listen, we may have to be careful not to be run over as they are heading out the door.


What are your favorite leadership qualities that you look for in someone?