(Guest Writer Dennis Odera is back, looking at how Sports can lend a hand in teaching what qualities one should look for in a leader)
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King JR
As we approach the election year here in Kenya, many questions are being raised with regards to the quality of leadership in our country and what qualities a good leader should possess. While people look at the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill or even Barrack Obama to compare and contrast the qualities of their preferred leader with, some, if not most, miss out on one very important aspect of leadership to look out for.
The measure of a good leader should not be how an individual acts or reacts when everything is fine and dandy but how they react when everything has gone to the dogs; when everyone has lost belief and all logic and sense points towards giving up and abandoning ship. It is then that true leaders dig deep into what Italians call guono (gut), and try one more time.
What makes sport unique is that it places individuals in an atmosphere of controlled madness and most of the times the individuals who are able to control that madness are the ones who prevail.
Think of the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool FC and AC Milan at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul. It is half time, Liverpool are 3-0 down to arguably the finest team in Europe. The first goal of the match had been scored in the 1st minute of the match – by Paolo Maldini of all people, not known for his goal scoring exploits. How demoralizing could that have possibly been to the Liverpool players? Not only are the opposing team the favorites to win but you go on to concede in the first minute of that game to a not so accomplished goal scorer. For those who have played any sport, they know how difficult it is to come back from behind. A comeback however glorious and anticipated is often like a Unicorn, VERY RARE! Never mind a comeback from 3 goals down.
For the longest time, I have tried to imagine myself in the shoes of Stephen Gerrard. As Captain of the side who have just gone 3-0 down, what do you say to your players? How do you get them in the correct frame of mind? ACT Gerrard answered majestically and ACT he did. He scored the first goal by heading in John Arne Riise’s cross. Five minutes later two other goals had been scored. For anyone who watched that 2nd half they can attest that Gerrard played like a man possessed. He was involved in every pass, every tackle. He didn’t just sit around and let things be. HE ACTED!!!
David Beckham was vilified for getting sent off against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup in France. He was public enemy number one. He was booed in stadiums across England and his effigy was hanged in the streets of the United Kingdom. Most people honestly thought they had seen the last of David Beckham in an England jersey. But not David Beckham. He worked hard and eventually went from everyone’s villain to England Captain. Then, with England literally out of contention for qualifying for the2002 World Cup as they were required to at least draw with Greece to qualify, the moment arrived. With one minute to go, England were down 2-1. A free kick was awarded to England just outside the Greek penalty area. Beckham TOOK RESPONSIBILITY. The moment had cometh, and so had the man. Beckham bent it like, well, Beckham, and the rest as they say is history.
When most people are threatened with injury, they would throw in the towel, call it a day and let bygones be bygones. After all, no one wishes an injury upon himself. Right? NOT according to All Blacks ace Ritchie McCaw. In the 2011 World Cup, McCaw injured his ankle in the second game of their campaign. This at a time when New Zealand were pursuing the one cup that had evaded them All Blacks for 24 years. The cup that gave each and every All Black coach, player and fan sleepless nights. In 2003 Tana Umaga (yes, the coach who scouted Kenyan Dan Adongo by the way) was the New Zealand captain and one of the most feared defenders of the game at the moment. Most of the All Blacks hopes and dreams were pinned on him; that was until he injured his knee against Italy in the 2nd pool stage. It seemed to be dejavu for the All Blacks coaches, players and fans again. But McCaw had made a promise to himself, his team and his country that he would deliver the Holy Grail…the Web Ellis Cup. McCaw being a military man was not about to go against his word.
Despite having a broken bone in his foot, McCaw not only played but he put in Man-of the Match performances in all the matches he played. No one could understand how the man with a broken bone in his foot was the most mobile, agile and generally the best player in the field. A few days after lifting the Webb Ellis Cup, while fishing with McCaw, then All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry looked down at McCaw’s foot and said it looked like he had three feet. When he asked his captain how come he did not tell him and the medical staff how bad it was, McCaw simply replied that the pleasure of winning the cup was worth all the pain. McCaw was COMMITTED to a cause and decided to follow it through. Despite the obstacles, despite the pain, he remained COMMITED.
Lebron James was touted as the next Michael Jordan. While still at a small high school in Akron members of the press and fans were flying into Ohio to see him play. What did he do when he was drafted into the NBA? He chose his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were not the strongest team in the NBA, they were not even a team that made it to the playoffs but he joined them still. LOYALTY, Tyga said, is all it is about in life.
Think of all the Lebron has no ring jokes. Most people would start believing the naysayers and think maybe just maybe it was not meant to be. After failing to win the Championship after his first season with the Miami Heat I bet it went a notch higher. PERSISTENCE though. Lebron dug deeper, he trained harder, he went the proverbial HAM and finally the ring came. Why you may ask? PERSISTENCE
Peyton Manning, an NFL player, was being interviewed a few weeks after winning the Super Bowl. Manning was at the time being interviewed in a gym where he was working out. After completing one set of bench presses, the reporter asked him whether he would go easy since he had won the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning quickly got down on the bench did another set and added an extra press. He then told the reporter the last one was for winning the super bowl. ATTITUDE
All in all what I am drawing to is, if you want to find qualities that a good leader should have, look not only at the front pages of the newspaper,also LOOK AT THE BACK!!!
Voto Attento, Voto Saggio, Voto Pace
Vote Carefully, Vote Wisely, Vote Peacefully
[Written by Guest writer Dennis Odera, who you may have encountered last time with his comparison on Lionel Messi and Dan Carter as the best in football and rugby respectively. He exists on twitter courtesy of the twitter handle @m_oyo which is a good follow if ever you were looking for one]