Leadership by Earnest Byner
Earnest Byner wrote his first blog article for Pro Interviews. EB played collegiately for the East Carolina Pirates. He played professionally for thirteen years. He played for the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens. He has been a professional coach for fourteen years. He started off as a coach for the Baltimore Ravens, then the Washington Redskins, then the Tennessee Titans, then the Jacksonville Jaguars. He wrote this before the 2011 NFL season.
A true leader will recognize the responsibility and the power he has on the team. With this recognition, there are actions taken because of their responsibilities that accompany the leadership role.
I have been told by many people how I affected the team when I was with the Cleveland Browns. My former coach, Howard Mudd, shared memories with me. He recalled to me the practices before a playoff game vs. the Miami Dolphins in 1985. On the Thursday prior to the game, the coaching staff kept me out of the inside run period. Coach Mudd told me that I was so intense. He told me that I would not allow anyone to be unprepared or let anyone settle for less than their best. I must admit that I was crazy at times. They called me, “The Tasmanian Devil.”
I tell you this with total honestly. I do not remember most of what I did. I was doing what was natural to me. I lived the moment to the fullest and did what was was called for in each situation. I loved each one of my teammates and wanted what was best for them. It is just as I love my players now and want the best for them, both on and off the field.
A leader speaks strongly about what actions that need to be taken and what type of conduct and effort is expected, but he must also model these same behaviors as best as he can. Remember no one is perfect but we seek to be. Purity of his motives must be clear to all that are under his control and influence.
A leader can influence the entire team and can drive them to higher expectations and therefore, a higher degree of success. Some lead on higher levels than others, but the leadership within the player ranks should be recognized and focused on. It’s needed.
A leader must be able to communicate with the Head Coach in a way that shows respect, and in doing so, he raises the level of respect that the coach has for him. There should always be a protocol within the team, which should always be respected and honored. It’s about being a doer, and not merely just a talker, even when you don’t feel like it. It not only requires a demand from yourself, but also a demand from others. It’s a willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of all of the teammates involved. This sacrifice may involve taking the blame for a loss when it is clearly not your fault. This sacrifice may involve standing for the team and standing up for what is right.
This person should not have selfish motives when he is supposed to speak for the team. Even if his motives appear selfish, then they need to serve for the overall betterment of the team.
When you have leaders that are like this, then you have people who will be mentors to your younger players. You know what type of locker room you will have. If you don’t have these types of leaders, then you will have to watch for possibilities and begin the training process.
I am constantly asking this from our guys, on both sides of the ball to take hold of this position of influence. I have a room full of potentials that I coach. Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans) and Ahmard Hall (Tennessee Titans) were two players that I recently coached who had this potential. They are dynamic individuals, all looking to be the best and their play has put them in a position to lead. However, they do not always welcome it as it is not comfortable for some players. If the team wants to become champions, players who step into a role have to step up. Sometimes, to get them there the push is gentle. Other times, the push has to be more forceful.
Winning championships requires leadership within the player ranks. Do not be afraid of the influence you have, young men. Be the one that is the difference, so that one day they are saying it was because of you that we became winners.