Three days after the Super Bowl XLVII dust has settled, the Twittersphere is still buzzing with predictable comments, including Beyonce’s wardrobe choice, the funniest commercials, and what caused the 30-minute blackout. Not surprisingly, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was not excluded from popular trending topics. As many are aware, Lewis ended his NFL career on Sunday with his second Super Bowl win, a bittersweet day for Baltimore Ravens fans. While most of the attention around Lewis after the win on Sunday was positive, historically, Lewis’ reputation with the media has been quite controversial. (A quick Google search will give you all the grizzly details). Despite Lewis’ rocky past and the public’s love/hate relationship with him, his influence and impact on his team are indisputable. As another football great retires, there are a couple of key observations to glean from Lewis’ career as a leader.
The performance of his team
The qualities of an effective leader have long been debated and are still not well-defined. Dr. Hogan will tell you that the best determinant for measuring a leader’s success is by the performance of his/her team. Applying this principle to Ray Lewis, his success as a leader is clear. In a recent Yahoo! Sports article, former teammate Tony Pashos was quoted as saying “…you know what happens when Ray Lewis is in the locker room, and on the field? Guess what, you just maximized your entire salary cap, because everyone around him is playing at the highest level he can play. When I hear about the great ones like [Boston Celtics legend] Bill Russell, they say that he made everyone around him better. That’s Ray.”
His impact beyond raw talent
As many sports writers attest, Lewis did not earn his champion status based solely on his athletic talent. Although he has many accolades of which to be proud, including being selected in 13 Pro Bowls, receiving the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award twice, and two Super Bowl rings, his legacy will be known for much more. Sports writer Michael Silver states: “Because he ascended to the top of his profession on the strength of intangibles — work ethic, attention to detail, relentless passion, indefatigable drive — Lewis’ locker-room cred is tremendous. I exist in a world in which players routinely take private jabs at one another, especially those whose outsized personalities cause them to become public caricatures. Yet I’ve never covered an athlete more revered by teammates and opponents than Lewis, who habitually exceeds the lofty expectations of the newcomers that enter the Baltimore locker room.”
Although there may be other determining factors that lead one to such legacy status, these aspirations should be weighted heavily when considering how to make the greatest leadership impact. By focusing on such objectives, current leaders may realize some of the same notoriety upon retirement, just like the football legend himself.