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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Flakes, PE

Four Leadership Lessons to Be Learned from Russell Wilson Helping His Teammate Earn a $100K Bonus

Russell Wilson, NFL quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks
Grindstone Media Group | Shutterstock

By now, most sports fans may be aware of Russell Wilson’s kind act of generosity for teammate Davide Moore on the final weekend of the 2020 regular season. For those who do not know, the Seattle Seahawks had a 26–23 lead against the San Francisco 49ers and possession with only 22 seconds left in the game. Ordinarily, the Seahawks would go into victory formation and end the game, but instead, to his head coach’s surprise, Wilson ran a pass play for Moore to get him his only catch of the game. Only then, after the pass play, did Russell go into the victory formation and take a knee to end the game.

Now, $100,000 might not seem like a lot for most professional athletes, but Moore’s base salary is $825,000 with an additional $75K signing bonus. His one catch, however, allowed him to attain his incentive bonus and increase his net pay by 11%. That is not bad for his only catch of the game!

A lot has been made about the kind deed Wilson performed for his teammate, but not much has been mentioned about Wilson's specific leadership principles. Here are some simple leadership principles from Wilson’s actions and how to practice them yourself.

1. Observant. After the game, a reporter asked Wilson when he first became aware of his teammate’s incentive. Wilson said that he learned about it earlier in the week. Now, Wilson had every reason to be hyper-focused on preparing for his high-stakes football game and not attentive to his teammate’s conversations; however, because Wilson was an observant leader during his team meeting, he devised a plan to reward his teammate during the game.

How to practice it: Try to pay more attention to the body language of your coworkers. This may require you to remove any distractions that prevent you from paying attention. Also, pay more attention to your coworker’s moods and look for behavior changes. Lastly, practice becoming a better listener. Hold casual conversations with your coworkers. When listening to your coworkers, do not interrupt them, and do not immediately judge or try to offer advice.

2. Compassionate. It is one thing to be observant but another to act on the observation. Wilson is a multimillionaire athlete, a Super Bowl champion, and married to a famous entertainer. Wilson did not have to reward Moore, but he did so because he was a compassionate leader.

“It’s a blessing to be able to help his family and his daughter and all of that stuff,” Wilson told reporters after the game. “So we wanted to get him that catch, and we were able to dial that up for him that last play.”

Compassionate leaders are more effective because they create stronger team bonds. Compassionate leaders are often more trusted and admired. Compassionate leaders usually lead to more productive teams.

How to practice it: You cannot have compassion for others if you first do not have compassion for yourself. You can practice self-compassion by being kind to yourself when you make mistakes. Learn to treat mistakes as an opportunity for growth and development. Once you have learned self-compassion, practice compassion for others. Try placing yourself in your team member's shoes. How would you want to be treated? Why not try doing a good deed for a team member without expecting anything?

3. Awareness. Great leaders are situationally aware. Situational awareness is being aware of your surrounding environment and knowledgeable about the immediate moment. At the end of the game, Wilson was only 22 seconds away from victory, yet he was situationally aware and called an alternate play that could get a teammate his bonus while not hurting his team.

“I tried to get one to him earlier, but they (teammates Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf) kinda covered it,” said Wilson. “So it was, ‘Ah shoot, OK.’ And then it was the last drive, we got the ball back, and we’re in the huddle, and I was like, ‘Hold on, let’s get this call here.’ So we were able to do that.”

How to practice it: Before your next meeting, ask yourself who the stakeholders are. Who are the decision-makers, and what are their interests? What must you do to influence their decisions? What objections may you have to overcome? Are there any external factors that could impact decisions?

4. Courageous. Honestly, there was probably little risk of the play failing, but if the play did fail, the criticism would have been massive, especially if the Seahawks lost the game. His teammates, coaches, and the public would have lambasted his decision. Wilson, however, remained willing to take the risk for his teammate. This act of courage is an act that many leaders are not willing to take for a team member.

How to practice it: Accept challenges that push yourself outside your comfort zone. Be willing to speak up and truthfully. Be less risk-averse when making decisions. Be willing to deliver difficult news to team members. Be willing to take a calculated chance. Trust yourself when nobody else trusts you.

Russell Wilson is a class act, model teammate, and leader for the Seattle Seahawks. His kind act for a teammate illustrates four leadership lessons anyone can easily apply. If you can learn to be more observant, compassionate, situationally aware, and courageous, you will be well on your way to replicating Russell Wilson’s football success in your career.

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