A Powerful Leadership Lesson from a Super Bowl Athlete

You don’t have to love football to know—the 2019 Super Bowl will take place this Sunday. The NFC champion Los Angeles Rams will take on the AFC champion New England Patriots in my hometown, Atlanta, Georgia. Two great teams will square off to determine who will be the champion of the National Football League this season.

This is all predictable and expected.

What I didn’t expect was to hear a story that made my day yesterday. The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks found their janitor at the stadium, and stopped him to talk. The custodian, Alfonso Garcia, had no idea why Cooks wanted to speak to him.

Alfonso got choked up when he discovered why.

Brandin Cooks wanted to give Alfonso and his son two tickets to fly from Los Angeles to Atlanta to attend the Super Bowl. It’s all covered.

Why Did This Athlete Give His Janitor the Tickets?

Photo source: https://patriotswire.usatoday.com/2019/01/25/stephon-gilmore-on-facing-speedster-brandin-cooks-i-can-run-with-everybody/

At first Alfonso Garcia didn’t know what to say. He was blown away. Team janitors usually watch the big game on TV. They don’t actually attend. But Cooks wanted to make sure his custodian knew what he thought of him. As I watched video footage, then heard an interview from Cooks about it later, I understood what really took place:

1. He recognized good work done with a great attitude.

Since Cooks arrived earlier this season, he noticed Garcia doing good work around the stadium, and he always did it with a smile and a positive attitude. Cooks said, “He’s someone that I just found myself drawn to when I got here,” Cooks also knew that the celebrity players often get caught up in their own work in front of fans and don’t recognize the hard work that takes place behind the scenes often enough. He wanted to change that. “He keeps the locker room in tip top shape,” Cooks said. “This guy is special.”

2. He saw the big picture and wanted to demonstrate it.

The Los Angeles Rams theme this entire season has been: “We Not Me.” It’s a phrase that invites everyone to see the big picture and recognize every success is a team effort. Cooks told Garcia: “You’re part of this team, too.” I’m sure some janitors assume they’re to do their job and not be noticed by others; to stay out of the way. But this year, Cooks wanted to reinforce their “We Not Me” theme: “I just thought it would be special for him to understand that this is a team. He’s a part of our success as well.”

3. He wanted to model the message of servant leadership.

There’s lots of talk today about “servant leadership.” It’s the belief that our influence is best leveraged in serving others, not in gaining power. The celebrity on the field who receives applause when he catches a pass chose to applaud a person on the team who rarely get’s attention for doing his job. The one on the stage served the one behind the scenes. This is rare indeed. I could tell by the response of Alfonso Garcia, that this was an unexpected service. So, I’m now thinking of scenarios I can model this kind of service and recognition to those I meet who serve behind the scenes and rarely get noticed. Will you join me?

By the way—the Los Angeles Rams have been using Habitudes® under the leadership of their Special Teams Coach John Fassel for the past few years. Interested in learning how you can utilize Habitudes to grow leaders? Click here to learn more.

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A Powerful Leadership Lesson from a Super Bowl Athlete