NFL Pro Bowler Kevin Mawae on Leadership
16 Year NFL Career • 6-time Pro Bowler • NFL Player Association President
Former LSU great Kevin Mawae has been a leader on and off the field. A 16-year NFL veteran, Mawae played for the Seahawks, Jets, and Titans, making the Pro Bowl six times. Mawae served as the NFL Player's Association President for four years. He and has family have also been involved in many philanthropic efforts.
Here are Kevin's thoughts on leadership courtesy of LSU women's basketball player Sheila Boykin and Team Mawae.
How did you evolve as a leader?
I think you evolve as a leader by learning from those who held leadership roles before you. You learn from them, their mistakes, and their successes. You take from them what fits you and make it your own. I believe leaders learn to step up when others are unwilling, unable, or unaccounted for. It's a process that, through your own actions, you earn the respect of those around you, who afford you the opportunity to take over a leadership role.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
I think one of my greatest strengths as a leader is knowing what my weaknesses are, and acknowledging that there may be someone else who can do things better than me, and let them do it. True leaders are secure in others taking credit for something that they themselves aren't capable of doing. As for weaknesses, I am a people-pleaser and dislike disharmony... I don't like confrontation and at times will appease people to avoid it.
What are the biggest challenges you faced as a leader?
The biggest challenges I faced as a leader was my first term as the president of the NFL Player's Association. During an executive search process, I fought questions about my integrity, mistrust on my executive board, and questions about my vision for the organization. In the end, my goal was to accomplish that and more in such a way that my legacy would be sealed and no one could question whether or not I did things the right, moral, and just way. And I did. At the end of the day you have your morals and your integrity and when those are called into question, it has an effect on you.
How did your work with your coaches to effectively lead the team?
In college, coaches coached and players played. Never did I question a coach or his authority. By the time I was a senior we were so bad. I learned to play despite the team circumstances, and try to lead like we were champions.
As I became a pro and moved through my career, I learned that as a leader, you become an extension of the coach. You know the philosophy, the vision, and the plan, and you become an influence in the locker room to those around you. I learned to work "with" coaches and not just "for" them. Eventually you earn the respect of the coach(es) and they then ask you to carry the message throughout the organization. Any disagreements or areas we weren't on the same page with, we worked them out behind closed doors and not in a public forum. We didn't have to agree on everything, but a mutual respect or opposing ideas/thoughts allowed a more personal coach/player relationship.
How do you use your leadership skills now?
I try to use my leadership skills daily in raising my own kids (THE ABSOLUTE HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD!) Using my influence to serve in my church, I coach 5/6 grade football, and I speak often to men's groups, gatherings, ministry opportunities.
What is the biggest advice you would give to a leader?
The biggest advice I can give to a growing leader is this:
#1. Serve... We become leaders so that we can serve others who themselves don't yet have the wherewithal, the knowledge, or the experience to lead. We don't coerce, manipulate, or force...we simply serve.
#2. Be You... don't try to be another leader...learn from others, get others opinions, use others' ideas....but just be you.
#3. Don't let anything move you from your beliefs and morals, don't let anything or anyone away you to where your integrity is called into question.
Thanks so much Kevin for helping to inspire the next generation of leaders!