This column is part of Globe Careers' new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their advice about leadership and management issues. There will be a new column every weekday. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
"Why not you? Why not us?"
These were the words I heard spoken by Russell Wilson, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks football team, to a reporter after winning the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Mr. Wilson spoke of how his father inspired him over and over again by challenging him to hold a perspective of possibility. "I just remember driving in the car with him so many times and him saying, 'Rus, why not you? Why can't you be the Super Bowl winning quarterback and do great things with that? You have all the ability, so why not you?'" Mr. Wilson, 25, said this week on Good Morning America.
As a great leader, Mr. Wilson took that message to his team. All year, he spoke about reinforcing that message of "Why not us?" with his team. And he emphasized it before the big game: "I got up there and just said, 'Why not us? We have all the players. We've got the great [defensive backs] DBs. We've got the great defence. We've got the great offence. We've got these great special teams. We have a great coaching staff and, like I said earlier, we've got the best fans in the world. Why not us? Let's go do it."
My 13-year-old son Jake, who would love nothing more than to be an National Football League quarterback, has claimed that line. "Why not me, mom? Why not me?" And I looked at him and stopped seeing the 100-pounds-soaking-wet-5-foot-6-kid and recognized the power of the perspective you hold.
What Mr. Wilson is displaying is a great leadership skill – holding the right perspective. For Mr. Wilson and the Seahawks, the perspective "Why not us?" gave them the rallying cry of hope and potential. (When you say those words out loud, it's amazing what they do to you. It's almost impossible not to smile a little when you say them, not to feel the pulse of possibility quicken. Not to raise your head a little bit higher. Clearly, it worked for the Seahawks).
As leaders, we need to be extremely conscious of the perspective we are holding and displaying to our teams. Because let's face it, the right perspective can have a spectacularly positive impact. Just as the wrong one can have a spectacularly negative impact.
The Seahawks were the fourth-youngest team to win the Super Bowl. What if they held the perspective that they were too inexperienced to win this year, maybe next year would be their year? Mr. Wilson is the shortest quarterback in the NFL right now in a position where they are getting taller and taller (rival quarterback Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos is 6-foot-5). What if Mr. Wilson held the perspective that many did – I'm too short, too small and not strong enough. Where would he be now? Probably watching from his living room couch, I suspect.
What perspective are you and your team holding? Do you even know? Does everyone have the same perspective? Does it serve you or them? Would you be better served to change it? Does it empower or diminish? Does it create fear or energy? Does it make you drag your heels or put a bounce in your step? Perspective is everything. A great leader will help determine a perspective that inspires and empowers his or her team, and communicate it regularly.
But let's get back to "Why not you?" for a second. If you applied that to yourself, what would you do? How high could you jump? How far could you throw? What is your "Why not me?" for 2014?