Nick Foles and The Roots of Leadership

Nick Foles is really something.

If you don’t follow American football, Foles is the super-sub quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Last season, he came off the bench to lead the team to an improbable win in the Super Bowl. This season, the same thing happened. The team was floundering; first-string QB Carson Wentz got injured and once again, Foles stepped in and drove the team to a huge turnaround and the playoffs.

This year, though, no Super Bowl. Down by just six points and driving to score at the end of the game, Foles had a pass go literally right through the hands of his best receiver, Alshon Jeffrey. Even worse, the ball sailed directly into the belly of an opposing defender. The interception ended the game, and the season for the Eagles - a crushing blow. Jeffrey crumpled to the ground in disbelief and shame. The fans of the home team went predictably berserk. A sports story unremarkable in its form.

What is truly remarkable about Foles, though, beyond his athletic skills (which are good, but not great; though they tend to reach their targets, his passes often look like wounded ducks) are his emotional maturity, humbleness and empathy. Last year’s season, I wrote a post about Foles’s wise perspective on the positive role of failure in life.

This year, after the devastating loss, Foles did it again. As soon as Jeffrey, clearly crushed and shamed, dragged himself off the turf, there was Foles, arm around his colleague, leaning deeply into Jeffrey’s ear, talking earnestly.

“What did Foles say?” a journalist asked Jeffrey later that day.

Foles “…told me he loved playing with me and we wouldn't have won the Super Bowl without me,” Jeffrey replied, clearly deeply moved.

And there it is: The root of real leadership is love, folks.

Love what you do. Love your team. Show them you do. Loyalty, performance and joy result.

How hard  do you think Jeffrey will play for Foles next time he has a chance?

By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart
@MikeEdelhart