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The First Two Jobs of A Leader

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner and the Indianapolis Colts will be playing the New Orleans Saints. The Super Bowl is familiar territory to the Colts franchise, but it is rarefied air for the Saints of New Orleans. For 41 years the

Saints have been the “Aint’s” but now everyone is asking, “Who Dat” going to beat the Saints. This game is bigger than a football contest. This game – no matter the outcome – is about a city and a state getting back on its feet after being knocked flat by a Hurricane named Katrina. In this game, the Saints represent the hopes and dreams of a region for a better tomorrow.

Source: National Geographic News

Three seasons ago Sean Payton, coach of the Saints, ushered his team into the empty Superdome on a Friday night. (Only 13 months earlier the Superdome was the epicenter and the image of the impact of Katrina.) That Friday night preceded the upcoming Monday Night Football game against the Atlanta Falcons. Coach Payton gathered the team at midfield and replayed the scenes on the JumboTron: The images that television coverage had transported all over the world now played again – rooftop rescues, black swirling waters and widespread devastation. It showed images of the Superdome with its roof pulled back like a giant half-peeled onion.

Source: NOAA

The Superdome became a morgue. Bodies were stored in catering freezers. The images stopped and then the players at midfield talked about how the entire city could be energized by their football team giving the city something to cheer about. They talked about how their loyal fans would fill the seats (now empty) on Monday night. It would be the Saints first game back in the Superdome since December, 2004.

I remember the game well. I started the game as a Falcon’s Fan. Two minutes into the game, Atlanta was stopped on its first offensive series and they had to punt the ball. New Orleans blocked the punt, recovered it for a touchdown. And the cheering began. As a former disc jockey, I know that having ‘dead air’ is an announcer’s nightmare, but for 37 seconds, the announcers did not speak a word. The cheering was a deafening roar. The Saints were back and so was a city.

Source: J Bottoni/AP

New Orleans went on to win that game (23-3-) and it became the new foundation for a better tomorrow. Sean Payton taught us one of the greatest lessons a leader can ever teach: Your first job is to define reality. Your second job is to inspire hope and cast the vision of where you want to go and what you will become in the process.

In closing, I will not say “Go Saints” but I will say, “Way to go New Orleans.” We are all pulling for you!

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