OU Football

A different style of leadership

A different style of leadership

 You don’t have to be an Oklahoma football fan to love Baker Mayfield’s story.

It’s about persistence and grit. Ultimately it manifested in Mayfield becoming one of the finest quarterbacks in the country for one of the best teams in the country.  Remarkable tale of going from walk-on to starter – at two schools.

But that’s not what makes him a leader. Just because your business card says CEO, doesn’t mean you’re a leader, either. It’s not the title of quarterback or his “rags-to-riches” type tale that makes Mayfield what he is. It’s his actions.

So, when he stood up for his receivers earlier this week in a very public way, saying to whoever was listening, via Twitter, “Y’all are going to have to show some respect for my receivers. People saying I don’t have help, say what you want about me, not my guys,” Mayfield was widely lauded for his selfless act. Question me, don’t question them.

A nice gesture, never mind the fact questioning the Oklahoma receivers is completely acceptable and should be done aggressively, considering there are a number of issues moving forward. But that’s not the point here. The point is Mayfield stood up, and then put himself out there on Twitter.

What Mayfield did is notable, but not remarkable. Fans, particularly around here are all-in on Mayfield and his story, so when he comes out and defends his receivers against all enemies, real and in this case, mostly imagined, the fans love it. It’s like Hulk Hogan running from turnbuckle to turnbuckle, his hand cupped to his ear, playing to the crowd.  And it plays well.

Not for a second does anyone, nor should they, think what Mayfield did was anything but virtuous, but let’s not confuse his motives, innocent and pure, for daring or difficult. Being a leader isn’t playing to the crowd or doing what’s easy. Sometimes being a leader is doing what’s difficult.

Consider the case of Tim Tebow. Known as a great leader of men in college, Tebow was credited for a lot of amazing things, on and off the field at Florida, but when he called for a prayer at the NFL Combine in 2010, he was told to shut-up. It’s probably a better approach not to tell someone to shut-up, but it takes more of a leader to tell someone,
“No, we’re not going to have a group prayer,” then it does to tell everyone, “OK, let’s pray.”

Why? Well, it’s unpopular. It’s counter-culture. But it’s also the right thing to do. It’s likely not everyone in the room wanted to pray, or maybe they didn’t want to pray in public. Naturally, there were probably many who did, but there certainly ones who didn’t and might not have been comfortable singling themselves out to say they didn’t want to take part.

So, someone else did. The way it was done was a bit obtuse, but regardless, someone had the nerve to stand up and do it. That’s not easy.

Mayfield did nothing wrong. He showed leadership qualities with his statement earlier this week, but instead of saying what’s popular and easy, Mayfield could have taken a more-difficult approach, and maybe achieved the same results seemingly without pandering to the crowd and creating an alternate universe where questioning untested receivers is considered bad form.

And perhaps Mayfield did try a different style. Maybe he told his receivers that they needed to step up this season. That they needed to go out and prove themselves. Maybe he told them they better darn-well play hard and play well. Maybe this was all done in a place where there was no Twitter and no cameras.

But if he had done that in public, on Twitter, instead of creating a new chip on his shoulder and saying the standard line, it would have been beyond notable. It would have been somewhat unpopular to call his teammates out, but it would have no doubt been a very effective leadership move.

Mayfield is a great leader because of what he does on the field. A winning quarterback who never seems to run out of energy and never seems to quit.

He’s not a great leader because of what he said on Twitter.

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