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Posted at 04:06 PM ET, 12/13/2011

Leadership, Tim Tebow-style


This week I watched a piece about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. While he has been described using religious terminology time and time again, the piece suggested there is a different reason for his success.

In the piece, Cal-Berkeley Professor Dacher Keltner makes this point: “What this new science of altruism and cooperation is finding is that, highly cooperative, other oriented, compassionate and empathetic individuals, their teams perform better, their organizations are healthier.” Clips of Tebow deflecting attention away from himself and encouraging his teammates were used to back up Keltner’s statement.

I’m no scientist at Cal-Berkeley, but I’m not surprised by this research. Tim Tebow may be one of the best examples of a leader whose talent is highly questioned but who continues to find success despite the criticism.

High school athlete — doesn’t matter if you’re the team captain or a role player — does your team know how compassionate you are about your program or your fellow players?
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) prays in the end zone before the start of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. (Julie Jacobson - AP)

Leadership is a pivotal component of any operation, from sports to the business world to family life. A leader has incredible power to elevate those around them or drag them down, way down. Where the leader goes, the group usually follows.

In the world of high school sports, the leader must serve as the glue, the liaison, and the example through all the ups and downs that are sure to come. (And this doesn’t change in college.)

Think about it: successful programs usually are led by successful coaches. The team captain ideally embodies what the coach wants and expects out of their players when the coach isn’t present.  Does a coach ever take the day off? Neither does a sincere and compassionate captain.

By no means am I suggesting we all turn into Tim Tebows overnight, but I am suggesting we take a page out of his book.

As I think of my experience as a team captain and as a leader, I know I can’t say ‘I was as compassionate as Tim Tebow,’ but my passion for my program and teammates could never be questioned.

There’s no doubt that most of us play our sports because we are passionate about them, and typically that holds true even more so for captains. But is there a sense of compassion in our locker rooms, that’s fostered by our captains as leaders?

There honestly isn’t a huge difference between compassion and passion in sports. Winning your next contest isn’t likely to put a dent in world hunger.

However, for a captain, be sure to lace your passion with a little kindness. Your teammates know you’re passionate about your program and sport, but do they know you care about them as teammates?  Did the encouraging word you gave them after they made a mistake ring in their ears later as they made a big-time play?

Captains, team leaders, ask yourself these questions: If everybody on the team mimicked me from attitude, to work ethic, to out-of-sport decision-making, would it be in the best interest of the team? Do my teammates know that I care about them and us as unit — like Tim Tebow’s teammates do?

If you’re wondering, ask your teammates honestly. They’ll tell you, but you must respect their response. Leading is all about serving, and every team is different. You won’t be effective as a leader without knowing what your team would like to order.

About Transition Game

Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports.

Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at hss@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.

Previously:

The importance of attitude (Dec. 6, 2011)

Fine-tuning your “mistake response” (Nov. 22, 2011)

Looking beyond the stat sheet (Nov. 15, 2011)

Battling the “dumb jock” stereotype (Nov. 8, 2011)

Taking advantage of your athletic resume (Nov. 1, 2011)

College recruiting: Finding a program that fits you (Oct. 25, 2011)

Navigating the recruiting process: “Get a clue, control your career” (Oct. 18, 2011)

Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)

Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)

More on Tim Tebow from Washington Post Sports:

Tebow stands at crossroads of sports, religion and popular culture

Early Lead: Tebow isn’t short on belief — or miracle finishes

On Leadership: Putting faith in Tim Tebow

On Faith: How much ‘Tebowing’ is too much?

Sally Jenkins: Tebow shows that in sports, there’s no faking leadership

 

By Monica McNutt  |  04:06 PM ET, 12/13/2011

 
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