A Leader’s Actions Matter

For you non-football fans out there, a little background is necessary for this post to make sense.  A little over two weeks ago, the Cleveland Browns played the Pittsburgh Steelers on national television.  The Browns won the game, 21-7, but the real story was a large fight that occurred at the end of the game.  Myles Garrett, the Browns’ star defensive end, sacked the Steelers’ quarterback, Mason Rudolph.  They jostled with each other on the ground.  Garrett got up and tore Rudolph’s helmet off.  He hit Rudolph in the head with the helmet.  The NFL suspended Garrett indefinitely, suspended a Steelers’ player, and fined numerous players and both teams. 

An enterprising Clevelander came up with a t-shirt that says, “Pittsburgh Started It.”  It has become wildly popular in Cleveland.  So popular, in fact, that the Browns’ rookie head coach, Freddie Kitchens, received one from his daughters.  He wore it out in public last week and a fan took a picture of Kitchens with the shirt on.  As you might expect, it went viral.  Of course, the Browns and Steelers played this weekend.  The Steelers won the game with their 3rd string quarterback and three other great offensive players not playing.  The loss effectively ended the Browns’ playoff dreams. 

Kitchens is adamant that the shirt had nothing to do with the game.  He said he wore the shirt because his daughters wanted him to wear it.  He’s right about the shirt not mattering but he apparently does not understand that the act of wearing the shirt did indeed matter.  Throughout the year, the Browns have been undisciplined.  They are the most penalized team in the NFL.  They have had numerous players ejected from games and fined for late hits.  Players have been suspended (and even cut) for being late to practice or missing team functions.  At times, the team looks confused on the field. 

People follow a leader’s actions.  Kitchens can talk to his team all he wants about discipline.  He has said numerous times, “I don’t coach penalties.”  The players, like all people, pay more attention to what he does than what he says.  Until he learns that, the Browns will continue to struggle.  It’s an old cliché: Actions speak louder than words.  That is especially true for leaders. 

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