You’re the President, like it or not.
A coaching colleague introduced me to The West Wing. At that time, it was only on DVD. Now, it’s on Netflix. It’s a fictional series about life in the White House. I have watched all 7 seasons and I’m going back through it again. It’s that good. I believe that any coach of any sport should be required to watch it. For that matter, anyone in any kind of leadership position should be required to watch it. I’ll even say that anyone who is on any team of any kind should watch it.
That’s not the point (even though it could be). The point is related to something that hit me when I was watching it. This is not political commentary. This is all about the theme of leadership that permeates that show and one aspect that made me think.
Do we make our team more important to us than we are important to them no matter what they do? On The West Wing, the President makes America his top priority. From his staff to the citizens to his political enemies, the people who walk into the Oval Office and those affected by the decisions he makes are his number one concern. The President personally knows less than 1% of the people that he affects. He knows that he can never make all of them happy, yet he puts the country first.
An everyman walks into the Oval Office; and he or she is welcomed just like the Vice President, a congressman, or anyone on the White House staff. The Oval Office can be empty. It still commands respect. Many are rendered speechless from the weight of the events that have occurred in this room over the country’s history. Sometimes the President has to remind a high-ranking government official that he is the leader of the country. Sometimes their egos have outgrown their role. They must be reminded that their role is not nearly as important as they might seem to think at the time.
Granted it’s the President’s job to make the country important, but isn’t that our job for our team? If we don’t think that what we do is important, why should they? If we don’t spend extra time with them and for them, then why should they work hard for us? If they can’t walk in the office and be the most important thing to us, then why should we expect them to respect us? If we can’t make time for them and put our other work to the side, then do we need to do a better job managing our time? If we can’t put a player in their place when they think they are more important than the team, then we’re not much of a president, are we?
What is our Oval Office? Does our gym command respect when our players walk into it? Do our players understand the expectations when they step on the floor? Do they understand that just like the President, there will come an end to their term? The President understands that every word he says is important. Every word he doesn’t say is important too. It’s heard by everyone, sometimes even through someone else. It’s interpreted in countless different ways. Every action he makes has an impact on millions everywhere, just like the actions he doesn’t take.
He can’t be so paranoid that he never does anything, yet he can’t be careless either. What a job! What a responsibility! I argue we have the same job and the same responsibility on a smaller scale. Smaller-scale does not mean less important. The President impacts society; we impact individuals. We are just as important to our team as the President is to our country. Do we accept that responsibility every day? Or do we just show up and carelessly go through the motions?