By Rajat Taneja
The Washington Redskins entered their bye week in the 2012 NFL seasons with a record of 3-6. They had lost 4 of the last 5 games and even their most diehard fans thought that barring a miracle, the season was essentially over for them. The Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan publically declared that he was now looking past the year. It must have been bleak in the locker room. Rising out of these ashes of doom, emerged a 22 year-old rookie quarterback who not only defended the coach but also took personal responsibility for the mess the team was in. In doing so, Robert Griffin III playing in just his 9th start as a Redskin did something remarkable. He stepped up and became a leader for the franchise.
“People are gonna criticize the coaches,” Griffin said. “They’re gonna say a drastic change needs to be made. I don’t feel that way. I feel it’s on us. We’re the ones out there playing. We gotta make plays. … We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ll come back [after the bye] ready to go. I think you’ll see a different team.”
Over the next seven weeks, the unexpected happened. The Redskins won every game – at home and on the road. They ended the regular season with a 10-6 record and made the wild card round in the playoffs, a feat that will inspire and motivate teams in every field of play – sports or business, for a long time.
Griffin inspired his team through simple actions that can easily be applied to business: he was first to the team meetings, always came prepared, practiced more than anyone else, went the extra mile to help his teammates and was always optimistic. He would welcome everyone on to the bus on the way to the games, sit on the first seat, high five his colleagues and in general just added energy and a new sense of camaraderie to the team. Most importantly, his actions gave everyone hope that the result of the season was not a foregone conclusion. His commitment to the franchise, his belief, his work ethic and his team spirit were contagious. He became a natural leader and earned the respect of all those around him.
The Redskins season is a perfect demonstration that regardless of circumstance, anyone and everyone can be a leader. It’s not about age, gender or title. It isn’t even about being the best communicator or being the most popular. Many will argue that the characteristics that make up a leader are something you’re born with, but I disagree wholeheartedly. These skills can be developed at any time throughout your career and leaders can and do come in all different personality types. There is only one truism – You never become a leader through a job promotion, you become one only through your own actions.
There are seven rules in leadership that are so apparent in the case of Griffin. Anyone, in any organization and in any role can apply these to unleash their own inner leader:
1) Provide purpose and meaning to the vision
2) Always be authentic
3) Be accountable
4) Lead by example
5) Demonstrate a genuine passion for results
6) Learn from mistakes and bad news
7) Feed optimism with your actions
Leaders are everywhere. Some of the most inspiring leaders may not have fancy titles or sit in the corner office – they’re the team members who are working hard and not worrying about the credit. Everyone can be a leader. No one should ever underestimate the power of a single individual to ignite passion for greatness in an organization.
Tell me what you think should be added to the list or how you’ve demonstrated one of these rules in your own organization.