3 Leadership Lessons from College Football’s Opening Weekend

Labor Day weekend is a bittersweet time. As the sun sinks below the horizon earlier and earlier with each passing week, cooler temperatures and shorter days signal the pending end of summer. But as the seasons change, the leaves turn, and families head back to school, a new feeling is in the air. The feeling of an age old tradition, filled with passion, excitement, and pageantry.

Football season is here. The best time of year.

The opening weekend of the 2016 college football season did not disappoint, filled with surprises, upsets, and standout performances. But if we take a closer look, beyond the scores, highlights, and newswire headlines, we will find 3 stories—3 powerful, moving, extraordinary narratives—that provide brilliant examples of leadership and character for each of us to emulate in our own lives.

Great leaders live with persistence, patience, and presence—and we need not look any farther than 3 exemplary student-athletes to find examples of these leadership qualities.

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6 Things It Takes to Lead a New Organization

Today, I’m excited to share a conversation with two courageous leaders – Dan Smith and John Gilfillan – who are each rising to the challenge of using their leadership gifts and talents to start new organizations – church plants.

Starting a new venture of any sort is hard work (we have experienced this first hand at Next Level Performance), and statistically, church planting ranks with the likes of restaurants and retail stores as one of the most difficult new organizations to start and successfully sustain. Yet, Dan and John are already off to a strong start. Why? Leadership. In a new organization, everything rises and falls on it, and these two men are both leading well and learning a lot every step of the way.

Dan and John graciously took some time to share the most important things they are learning about leadership through the challenges of starting and leading a new organization.

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3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated From High School

o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebookI recently had a chance to speak to a group of over 150 senior scholar athletes from several high schools around Southwest Michigan who had earned over a 3.25 career GPA. I shared with them the 3 things I wish I knew when I graduated from high school. Here are the highlights of the message:

It was the game of all games. The game of the century…literally. It was the 100 year anniversary of the tradition-rich rivalry between Orrville High School—my beloved hometown in Northeast Ohio—and our unspeakable nemesis, Wooster High School. As if this Friday night under the lights could get any better, we were hosting this game for the ages. The stadium was standing room only and it was the perfect opportunity to finish the regular season in style before the playoffs began.

That night I threw 1…2…3…4…5…not touchdowns…but interceptions. Without sharing another word, you can probably guess the final outcome of the game.

But even though I gave the ball away 5 times, I also gained something that night. I gained a powerful lesson. A lesson I carry with me to this very day. A lesson that my high school football coach had the opportunity to share with me not once, not twice….but 5 times, after each interception. (Maybe that’s why it stuck with me so well!)

“The next play is the most important play.”

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4 Leadership Lessons from Bethany Hamilton

IMG_4108About a week ago I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Bethany Hamilton in front of over 2,000 people at the “Think Big!” event at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Bethany’s incredible story has inspired millions around the world, as she overcame losing her left arm in a 2003 shark attack to go on to become one of the most successful athletes ever in the sport of surfing.

In spending time with Bethany, her husband Adam, and her son Tobias before, during, and after the event, one thing is clear – Bethany is a great leader and role model we can all learn from. Every opportunity is a chance to learn something new, and I believe Bethany’s story, her demeanor, and her character all present leadership qualities we can learn from and emulate.

Specifically, here are 4 leadership lessons we can learn from Bethany Hamilton:

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3 Things Leaders Do With A Position Of Power

3 Things Leaders Do With a Position of Power

3 Things Leaders Do With a Position of Power“Men, we have quite a responsibility to Michael,” Coach Murray said. He paused to let the words sink in, extending his right fist forward slightly toward the center of the locker room for emphasis.

“He’s listening every time we play.”

Meet Michael Kuras. Michael is 24 years old and lives in Southwest Michigan. An avid football and hockey fan, Michael never misses watching or listening to a game of his three favorite teams—the Detroit Red Wings, the Kalamazoo Wings, and the Western Michigan University Broncos. Even if they play on the same night.

“He’ll follow all three,” Michael’s mom Debbie told me. “He’ll have the Red Wings on TV, the K-Wings on one radio, and the Broncos on another radio. All at the same time.”

These days, in his early 20’s, Michael should be enjoying the fun, the challenge, and the adventure of the “prime years” of his young life—complete with plenty of hockey and football games. But Michael has been dealt a different hand. He is in the midst of a challenge and adventure that is anything but fun.

Michael is battling cancer.

I first learned of Michael’s story when a friend of mine connected me with Michael’s uncle. Determined to make a memory for Michael and provide him with some hope during the throes of chemotherapy, Michael’s uncle asked him, “What would you like Michael?”

The answer?

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