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Leadership Lessons—Reinventing Yourself

Sometimes it is necessary to reinvent one’s self.

The largest “reinvention” ever is in the news—but my wife Mary Kay and I aren’t celebrity show fans and don’t pay much attention to it. It was done by one of my favorite athletes. One who was known for fiercely waving the American flag. If you are more than 50 years of age you remember him well. It was the 1976 Olympics. No one in history had ever scored more than 8,000 points in that event—giving him the Olympic Gold. Not long later we saw him on the box of Wheaties!

I remember that Olympic champion as Bruce. Those of you younger than 30 only know the name Caitlyn.

Don’t worry … that’s not what I mean by “reinventing” yourself. This is what I mean:

In Saturday’s Waco, Texas, Tribune there was an editorial concerning Johnny Football—aka Johnny Manziel. It reminded everyone that the term “Johnny Football” was created in Texas—when Manziel attended Texas A & M and won the Heisman Trophy as the first freshman. He entered the national spotlight when A & M beat No. 1 rated Alabama at the other team’s home field.

He really was good in high school, too. He was named Mr. Texas Football as well as a Parade All American in high school.

Along the way, he became one of the most arrogant and limelight-seeking athletes in recent history. Earlier last week a Dallas grand jury indicted Manziel on a misdemeanor assault charge against his former girlfriend.

A month ago Manziel allegedly caused $30,000 damage to a home he rented for $5,000 per night in Hollywood. Google stories can give you an idea of the damage. No doubt about it—he needs to reinvent himself if he is going to survive, much less play another down of football.

Leaders have reinvented themselves before.

Look at Kobe Bryant who just retired from the NBA. His tour around NBA stadiums was a love fest like few have ever witnessed. This is the same Kobe, who in 2003, was accused of rape in Colorado. Kobe very publicly apologized to his wife was with a $4 million ring.

His nickname became “Black Mamba” on the court as he was tenacious. On his retirement tour the same fans who hated him now showered him with adulation.

He was reinvented.

Something similar happened in Cleveland when LeBron James played out his contract in 2010, became a free agent, and went to Miami to play for the Heat. Clevelanders burned his jersey and Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, sent a scathing open letter to Cavs fans saying that LeBron gave the city a “cowardly betrayal.” In that letter Gilbert referred to LeBron as the “self-titled former king,” and said his decision to sign with Miami was “the opposite lesson of what we want our children to learn.”

How did James do in Miami? They won two NBA championships and lost in the finals for the other two that LeBron played. What was next? He went back to Cleveland! LeBron and Gilbert talked it out and LeBron said, “Who am I to hold a grudge? We all make mistakes.” Oh, and by the way, when LeBron left Miami, people there burned his jersey! Perhaps they forgot about the four years and what happened before LeBron came.

More? Remember in 1998 when we were watching the leader of the free world, President Clinton, say things such as “it depends on what the meaning of “is, is” as well as “’I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” The result: Clinton was impeached but later acquitted of all charges. Did he reinvent himself? Today he is the second most popular President in recent history—just behind Ronald Reagan in approval.


In Green Bay, Wis., Brett Favre retires, comes back, retires, and then becomes quarterback for the New York Jets. He leaves them and becomes quarterback for the hated Minnesota Vikings—the Pack’s nemesis. Again, jerseys are burned in the street and Favre is hated by Packer fans.

Fast forward to July 2015, when Favre comes back to Green Bay after being in exile for seven years. Sixty-seven thousand tickets sold out in minutes to welcome him back as an inductee into the Packer Hall of Fame and his No. 4 is put in the ring of honor. On Thanksgiving night he was back during the Thanksgiving Night Game against the Bears to see his number hoisted into its “forever place” and have his number retired.


The good news is Manziel hopefully has time to reinvent himself. Remember the NBA draft in 1986? Len Bias was chosen by the Boston Celtics as second player named in the draft. Hours later he celebrated with cocaine. Two hours after celebrating he was dead. Overdose.

Leaders need to understand they can reinvent themselves. All of this week’s examples give proof of this!

The biggest thing Kobe, LeBron and Favre did was become winners. They each lead a team to a World Championship:

  • Kobe and the Lakers became NBA champs, again, in 2009 & 2010.
  • Favre had taken the Packers to the Super Bowl a few times, winning once. He almost took the Vikings to the Super Bowl in his final season—when he was more than 40 years old.
  • LeBron won a few NBA championships with the Heat. Cleveland hasn’t had a championship of any kind since 1964. The city is hungry for one.
  • Bill Clinton introduced Obama for one of his speeches when he ran for reelection in 2012. Then he electrified the Democratic National Convention stumping for Obama. This helped to get the President reelected.

People love winners. Cities love winners. So do employees. The biggest thing that you can do, if need be, is reinvent your office, your company, your team to be a winning team—a team where people choose to work and want to work. Look at what it did for Kobe, Favre, LeBron and Clinton.

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