A Lesson in Authentic Leadership With Super Bowl Champion Bryan Braman

A Lesson in Authentic Leadership With Super Bowl Champion Bryan Braman

Think NFL players only care about the game? This Philadelphia Eagle showed the leadership skills that make champions, on the field and in life.
When a friend offered to connect me to Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagle Bryan Braman, my first thought–as a native Philadelphian raised on cheese steaks and soft pretzels–was of course I want to talk to a guy who brought the Vince Lombardi trophy home!

#50 Bryan Braman about to block a punt
#50 Bryan Braman about to block a punt

My next thought was: “My column and podcast are on leadership. If he’s a ‘bad boy’ player out for fun for himself, the conversation won’t go well.”
Mea culpa at my preconceived notions.
Don’t get me wrong. He lives and loves the game. Look at this head-first tackle after losing his helmet:
That’s giving everything on the field.
What changed things for me was Braman’s conversation on my podcast, which is on leadership and the environment. Talk to athletes about sports and you tend to hear similar things. Inc. readers have heard them from athletes, coaches, SEALs, and so on. Inc. even covered Braman with lessons for entrepreneurs.
By contrast, in an area he didn’t have to be, he was as genuine and authentic as any leader I’ve interviewed.

He reflected and acted on his values. He put others first, as leaders do, not just in football. That’s why we follow them.
For context, longtime readers of my column and blog know I’ve covered a 4-star General, a Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, NBA champions, #1 bestsellers, #1 leadership gurus, several Nobel laureates, and other champions.
None surprised me as much as Braman. Where many top athletes and successful people share about their greatness, when he speaks in the conversation about the environment, it’s with an openness and authenticity too many lack, certainly our political leaders (anywhere on the spectrum).

What makes a champion

I’m not saying he’s an environmentalist, but that’s the point. He’s a regular guy who lives by his values, even when no one is watching, where most others abandon theirs. That’s integrity. It’s what makes him champion material.
It’s what makes him someone any of us can learn from.
You have access to reach the same leadership potential–maybe not in the NFL, but in your field, if you choose to act with the same integrity. Sadly, most choose not to. I’m sharing Braman’s story to show your potential.
His athleticism doesn’t enable him to live a more integrated life or have more leadership potential. His integrity does.
Take your environmental values.

  • Do you live by yours?
  • Do you compost, or something similar?
  • Do you consider trading your car for a cleaner one?
  • Or do you feel like, “If no one else changes then what I do doesn’t matter so I’ll keep doing what I’ve done”?

Well, you’ll hear in the interview that Bryan composts. He certainly doesn’t have to.
And he starting considering trading his car–on a recording for the public–even as you can hear me about to let off the hook for being accountable.
He asked for more accountability. That’s what leaders do–successful ones, that is.

Living your values in the face of adversity

After you’ve chosen to live by your values in the face of adversity–that is, to integrate your life–the rest is implementation. In football that means practicing and playing with everything you have. In your field it means the same thing.
(It’s also luck, which I find results from persistence, which is implementation.)
After listening to him in our conversation, look again at his athletic accomplishments asking what you can do:

  • What inconsistencies between your values and actions are holding you back?
  • Can resolving them help you reach your potential?

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