Is quiet leadership a bad thing in today’s world?

November 05, 2010 |

As we know, sports can be a great motif for life in general. As a part of the oh-so-competitive corporate world, I’ve been told time and time again that it’s important to toot-your-own-horn when you do something good at work. If you don’t, they say, you’ll never be able to move up. I come from humble stock, and bragging about how great I am is just not something with which I’m comfortable. Having said that, I’ve seen less-than-qualified people be promoted over me, and I’ve even been threatened with my job for giving credit to others.

The purpose of this column is not to vent about my job. However if life mirrors sports, does the same theory or idea hold true? As a Washington Redskin fan, I hated Donovan McNabb for years. Not only did he play for the Eagles, but he had the uncanny ability to beat the Redskins whenver he needed to do so. However looking back on those games today (with McNabb now playing for the burgundy and gold), I can see that he played all of those games with the grace, class, and leadership that he exhibits now with the Redskins. He’s not an overly emotional player in that he never lets you see him sweat when he’s under duress. My point isn’t to bring up or discuss his benching last Sunday afternoon in Detroit, although I’ll say that I think it was a bad move. However that was only the latest instance in a long line of times where McNabb’s been embarrassed during his football career. He even refused to publically denounce T.O. when they were teammates and Owens saw fit to call him out. He was benched by Andy Reid in Baltimore a few years back at halftime, and he took his medicine without complaining. However each time his team wins or he makes a great play, he’s always up there saying how great of a route Chris Cooley or DeShawn Jackson ran on that play.

On the other hand, showboaters such as Michael Irving and Deion Sanders never seemed to struggle for respect. Both of them were great players without a doubt, however they never carried themselves with the humility or grace with which someone like McNabb does. Derek Jeter (as much as we hate him) is a quiet guy, but he plays for the Yankees so he’s essentially loud by association. Alex Rodriguez can be loud at times, and as we saw earlier this season he seemingly has no regard for the game’s unwritten rules (ask Dallas Braden). The league, media, and fans even swept Rodriguez’s steroid use under the rug. Yet a quiet type of guy like Rafael Palmeiro was villianized. (Granted Palmeiro lied to Congress, but on the field he was fairly mild-mannered.) So what am I trying to say here? To be honest, I’m really not sure myself. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for whatever reason, it’s easier for society to accept someone like a Michael Irving or Alex Rodriguez. The majority of society are emotional people; therefore they react and empathize with someone like that. When people see someone like Donovan McNabb or even Raffy, they immediately think that the guy has no moxie whatsoever. In fact, when they screw up people are potentially more likely to hold them accountable. McNabb was benched because he threw a horrible interception late in the game, or Palmeiro single-handedly ruined baseball with his steroid use. This, as opposed to Michael Irving may act like a thug and have a drug addiction but he’s a great receiver, or Alex Rodriguez took steroids, but so did everyone else.

What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. Steroids are wrong no matter how you look at it, and regardless of who’s taking them. However I suppose what I’m saying is that people can accept the shortcomings of humanized athletes or public figures moreso than they can those of the quiet leaders. And I think that’s a horrible trend. We should all aim to be like Donovan McNabb, telling reporters how great his teammates are. Instead, as a society we’re more like Michael Irving, who never wasted an opprotunity to promote himself to the cameras or microphones. Nowadays NFL players are almost expected to do some kind of endzone dance when they score, whereas the true legends of the game such as Johnny Unitas simply walked off the field. Again, we all wish that we had that kind of class.

I don’t think for one moment that Donovan McNabb isn’t respected in the NFL, however I’ve heard that he wasn’t always liked by the fanbase in Philadelphia because of his professionalism. All jokes about that making sense for Philadelphia people aside, that’s a sad state of affairs. Is that why he was traded? I don’t know, however I would assume that had he perhaps spoken his worth from time to time, they might have thought twice about it. Instead, he motored along like a good soldier and propped people up around him. To me, that’s leadership much moreso than someone that steals the limelight on a continual basis. But yet, those are the people that seemingly make it in today’s society. What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

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