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Most Liked (and Most Disliked) NFL Players of 2012: Does this mean anything, really?

Leadership is not just about titles. The case can be made that every person on a team is a leader. In keeping with this idea, everyone’s brand can impact the team – the morale and the performance alike. But does it really? Let’s take the NFL’s latest most liked (and least liked) players of the year list as compiled by Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research and see if the aforementioned supposition holds.

Most Liked NFL Players                                                Most Disliked NFL Players

1. Troy Polamalu, Steelers, (63 percent)                          1. Ndamukong Suh, Lions (19 percent)

2. Drew Brees, Saints, (62 percent)                                   2. Jay Cutler, Bears, (21 percent)

3. Charles Woodson, Packers (62 percent)                     3. Michael Vick, Eagles, (23 percent)

4. Peyton Manning, Broncos (59 percent)                       4. Randy Moss, 49ers, (24 percent)

5. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (58 percent)                           5. Matt Leinart, Raiders (26 percent).

Hypothesis: Is there a correlation between winningest team and the most liked players? Let’s see. Atlanta Falcons are the winningest team and only remaining undefeated team in the NFL with a 6-0 record. The Falcons aren’t represented on either Top 5 list. The most liked player is Troy Polamalu,  or as I call him Troy “Long hair, don’t care” Peezy. Troy  is on the Steelers, and they are sort of middle of the road in terms of their record, 3-3 with a 12th place power ranking on several lists. Meanwhile, the Packers (with 2 of the 5 most liked players) fare somewhat better; they sit at no 5 on many power rankings with a 4-3 record. That leaves Mr Peyton Manning. He is no 3 on the most liked list and the Bronco’s, like the Steelers, are 3-3 but one spot above the Steelers in the power rankings at no. 11. So, being well liked appears to be somewhat helpful towards winning.

Conversely, Jay Cutler totally debunks the notion of most disliked player and capital “L” loser team. His team is ranked consistently at no 3 on power rankings with a 5-1 record so far. Jay is no 2 on the most disliked list. While Vick, another QB, is not doing so well in terms of winning with a 3-3 season and is no 17 on power rankings. The 49ners are represented on the downside with Randy Moss making an appearance on the disliked list but they are close to the top of the winning record teams with a 5-2 showing. Matt Leinart is no 5 on the most disliked list so he was the best of the worst in this regard, but he is on the 2nd worst team in terms of power rankings  at 31 out of 32 teams in the NFL with a 2-4 record. That leaves Ndamukong Suh. He is the most disliked player this year. I think everyone knows why, but dirty hits are predominately to blame if you are not aware of his antics on and off the field. The Lions are 24th on the power rankings with a 2-4 record. Even though there are more losing records than winning records here; the winning records are pretty darn good. Hmm?

So, does a “disliked player” make a losing team and does a “most liked” player make a winning one? Well, as you can see we are left with a mixed bag in terms of trying to make a prediction based on this list and the team’s overall performance. There are just too many other spurious and non-spurious factors that coalesce together to give a team the big W to have this single factor create a 1:1 ratio between being well liked and winning and vice versa. However, we do see that a player’s brand is not just a superficial concept. It actually translates not necessarily into wins  or losses on the field all the time,  but it can definitely have  financial, cultural, and social implications for sure. Still, Ndamukong Suh is not doing himself or his team a favor with his bad behavior and subsequent “dirty playmaker” brand. So, even if the Suh’s Lions lose more games this season, if Suh gave his brand a more positive reboot, his brand is one less loss they have to worry about.


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Watch the stomp heard ’round the world and lend your opinion to the list above. Do you think Suh earned his spot? : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaojAiK-8JU


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Tebow, The Christ: All Rights Reserved

Really? Really, Tim Tebow (said in my best Seth Myers voice during his “Really” segment on Saturday Night Live). Newsday was the first to report Tebow has a trademark. Yes, you guessed it; his ubiquitous “tebowing” now deserves an all rights reserved by NY Giants attribution when done hence now and forever more. The copyright was issued on October 9th, 2012. So, what does this actually mean? Will it now be illegal to tebow if you are not a Giant? Or if you are not Tebow? Can you still genuflect if you hold Buddah as the almighty? Or is it only if you hold Christ as your king? More than that, this trademark signals the slippery slope of declaring a brand that is not only aspirational but that is unsustainable. I present to you the cementing of “Tebow: The Christ” as Tim Tebow’s official brand.  Insert last nail in coffin.

No, wait, hear me out; this is only a thought exercise about branding Tebow, the Christ and not a literal critique of Tebow, the man. The mere suggestion that the two could actually be different things might puzzle and confuse some people and if it has confused you, I have already lost you. But for the rest of you, join me on this thought exercise. There is the immaculate conception, virginity, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, missions across the globe, and preaching to lost souls. These are all activities Christ and Tebow share. (Maybe, there was no true immaculate conception in Tebow’s case but he is a strong pro-life advocate because his mom was told to get an abortion by a doctor when she was pregnant with him and she did not. As such, she considers him a “miracle baby”).  Still, though he does not himself strike the comparison directly, Tebow is not shy about touting these parallels implicitly. He has in essence propped himself up on a pedestal and many in the media have leveraged this self-labeling and branding for their own commercial benefit. Encouraging hero worship in the general population sells books and newspapers and draws people’s attention.

Not sure how such photos encourage teens away from sexual activity, but I guess if you “Tebow” before and after such warm embraces, it might work.

Don’t get me wrong. In a world of oversexed, overindulgent, spendthrifts parading themselves as celebrities and even — if they are more unwise than they appear — as role models, Tebow’s brand appears refreshing on the surface. However, most people — especially the millions of teenagers (boys AND girls) that look up to him — are not prone to being able to resist the less than sanctimonious life he apparently lives.  So, the question then becomes: what do these kids do when they actually have sex? What do they do when they may become more pluralistic about faith after taking their first religion or theology course in 10th grade? Do they abandon any conception of morality because they aren’t perfect? Hey, these are just questions.

My hope is that Tebow never falls, never waivers, and never goes against any of the central values he upholds. However,  if he does, I hope he does what I would encourage anyone that has a leadership role to do: tell the truth. The worst thing anyone can do is lie after it is determined they have been dishonest — especially a person we liken to a deity. Even though Christians are taught to forgive, it is hard for them to do so in reality and even harder for them to forget. A deity’s transgression can forever tarnish a brand and even a legacy. (see Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire for a few references here and they weren’t making any allusions to Christ). So, when crafting your leadership brand make sure you allow a bit of room for your own humanity, because selling yourself as a deity is though strangely sexy an unsustainable pursuit. Vote for a more authentic leadership brand (where transparency and humanity are king), and this way you never have to backpedal (or relinquish trademarks).


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The Alex Rodriguez Effect

Alex Rodriguez has been a force to be reckoned with since his entry into professional baseball in 1993.  His stats are undeniable. Rodriguez is considered one of the best all-around baseball players of all time. He is the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs, breaking the record Jimmie Foxx set in 1939, and the youngest to hit 600, besting Babe Ruth’s record by over a year. Rodriguez has fourteen 100-RBI seasons in his career, more than any other player in history. On September 24, 2010, Rodriguez hit two home runs, surpassing Sammy Sosa’s mark of 609 home runs, and became the all-time leader in home runs by a player of Hispanic descent. But whether or not you agree with the calls for his ouster behind his declining performance and most recently his antics flirting with a fan in the stands, Rodriguez reminds us that perception is important.

A leader understands that it’s not all about me. A leader understands that the team needs me as a member of the unit. A leader gets that, yes, there are people on the team that perform better and that may get more attention but it is how that star performer deals with the extra attention that could help or hurt the morale and inevitably the performance of the team. A-Rod, as he is affectionately known as, has vacillated when it comes to understanding these leadership precepts. No one is perfect or infallible. However, when your team needs you, it might help if you can keep your eye on the ball and nothing else. Or at least give us the impression that you are doing so. Because one thing you can never fault Steve Jobs for is letting you think that even in the midst of cancer he was yet capable of winning — winning more share of market, winning more share of consumers’ affinity for his company’s products, and even winning his battle against pancreatic cancer. I personally thought he was a superhero and totally capable of taking cancer down like he does his competition.

Though Jobs eventually succumbed to the disease, his winning streak still lives on in his legacy and TEAM APPLE’s performance. A-Rod may need to use his iPad and crack open Jobs’ memoir and see through Jobs’ example that though image is not everything it sure does matter when you are the leader of a team.