Professional Development

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Leadership: A Tale of Two Bird Teams

I was born in Washington state and spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by Seattle Seahawks fans. In 2006, I moved to the East Coast and married into a family who bleeds the green of the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then, I've had two favorite bird teams. The past couple of years have been especially interesting, not only because these two bird teams have gone head to head several times, but because of the focus on the leadership provided by the coaches of each organization.

Bird Team #1 Coach

When Chip Kelly took over as head coach of the Eagles in 2012, I was excited because of what he'd accomplished at the University of Oregon—fast-paced offense and football intelligence seemed like a welcome change to traditionalism of Philadelphia. If you follow the NFL, you know that Kelly started off strong and slowly fizzled out over his three-year stint. During the 2015 season, #FIRECHIP was a familiar refrain. This winter, our family spent most of the last week of January glued to the TV and Internet, watching the firing of Chip Kelly unfold. It was especially interesting because the discussion surrounding the firing was not really about football; it was about leadership, and there were lots of references to emotional intelligence (EQ). The Eagles front office, much of the media and many of Kelly's players questioned the coach's interpersonal skills—a key part of EQ and successful leadership. Click here to read a recent article about this topic. 

Bird Team #2 Coach

Fast forward a couple of weeks and all sports eyes are on the divisional playoffs—I mention grit during a conversation at work, and a colleague sends me an article about Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. The headline reads, "He's Teaching the True Essence of Grit." The article focuses on the day that Angela Duckworth—NAA16 Keynote Speaker—spent with the Seahawks. Dr. Duckworth's specialty is grit, the trait she believes is the best indicator of success. Coach Carroll was convinced he had been teaching grit for years, and Dr. Duckworth wanted to observe this in action. Her findings from her day with Coach Carroll and the Seahawks: "If you end up in a culture where other people are gritty, the leader is gritty, the leader is incredibly demanding and yet, at the same time, incredibly supportive, you're going to be grittier than you would be in a place that didn't have those features." Read the whole article here.

You might ask, "What does this have to do with afterschool?" The bottom line is that leadership matters in football, in afterschool and in life. Sometimes I fear that we get so involved in the day-to-day challenges of our jobs that we don't step back and look at what skills we need to develop in ourselves, in others, and in our kids to ensure best environment for growth. At NAA, we look forward to being on the forefront of leadership development of afterschool professionals and youth through things like our Leading with EQ Fellowship, convention workshops, our AfterSchool Today magazine—the spring 2016 issue is focused on leadership—and other opportunities through involvement in our community.

What can you do?

Put ongoing effort into your own personal leadership development and share with others. In addition to what's offered through NAA, consider learning from experts outside of our field. There is a wealth of information out there! Here are some of the top sites with quick and informative reads that we follow at NAA:

Fast Company 
Harvard Business Review 
ASAE Center for Association Leadership 
Success Magazine 
Inc. Magazine 

Written by Heidi Ham, Vice President, Programs and Strategy for the National AfterSchool Association.