Back in the glory days of high school football, I played middle linebacker on my team. I was the leader of our defense, the guy that my teammates and coaches looked to be the man and get it done. I felt responsible for what happened when we were on defense.
During my senior year, we played a team that ran a triple option offense. On most plays, the quarterback would either hand the ball off to the fullback, keep it himself and run around the edge of the line, or pitch it out wide to another running back. To defend the triple option, a defense must be disciplined and each player is responsible for a different phase of the attack. In our scheme, the middle linebacker was responsible for the quarterback.
Late in the game, our opponents were driving deep inside our red zone and were at our 5 yard line. The quarterback received the snap, faked the ball to the fullback and began to run wide. I had him in my sights, like a lion targets a gazelle. No way he was going to get past me! Here he comes . . . .
When I came to, I was looking out of the ear hole of my helmet, my chin strap was on the ground, my jaw was killing me and the crowd and my teammates were cheering wildly. What was going on? I got up and jogged with my teammates back to the sideline, having no clue what just happened. As I pieced myself back together, I was told that the opponent had fumbled and we recovered. We went on to win the game, because we had that defensive stand.
So, what happened to me? As I was about to tackle the quarterback, our opponent’s 6’3″ 230 pound tight end applied what is known as a crack-back on me. Basically, he started out wide and ran inside at a full sprint to hit me in the side with all he had. I never saw him coming. He literally laid me out.
This was always a fun story to tell, but it did not hit me until years later the implications of what happened. As a leader, I was the guy in charge and responsible for the end result. But, I got blindsided, something took me out of the play. There are a lot of things that can blind side leaders today: illness, family crises, moral failures and even blind success.
The question is, what kind of leadership are you providing today to prepare your team for such an event? Do you micromanage every detail of your company? Are you a decision bottleneck? Do you trust those you lead? Hopefully you are not easily replaced, but if you are blindsided, are those you lead prepared to keep the ship afloat when you are down or will your team fall apart? Thankfully, my teammates took care of business and we won the game.