Dancing in the End Zone

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When it comes to leadership, imitation will not cut it. If you want to make a difference, you need to be willing to be different. And you need to be yourself.

Last weekend I spoke to a group of college athletes gathered for the Annual FCA College Classic here in Minnesota on the theme, “Dare to Become the Leader You Are”. Tim Tebow dares. Tim Tebow, who is very much in the spotlight these days, is an athlete who makes a difference (at least to Bronco fans). Others may mock his falling to his knee in prayer, but he isn’t afraid to break the usual public conventions on the field. For better or worse, he’s become a verb: “tebowing”. While some may be uncomfortable with his expression of Christian faith, it is difficult to contest his optimism and genuine spirit.

Jesus is exemplary in this regard. He defied all the social conventions for religious leadership of his day. He certainly was not afraid to be different.

And then there’s NY Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. Just prior to my speaking engagement I was perusing the New York Times. I was amused and inspired by the dance review I found, in the sports section no less, of Victor Cruz. Victor Cruz is distinguished as much by his salsa dance in the end zone as he is by the touchdowns he’s scored this season.

I am inspired by Cruz as well as Tebow because they have no reservations about being themselves in public. Laugh at them if you will, but don’t try to compete with authentic self-expression. I was amused because I myself have started taking ballroom dancing lessons with my wife. While I won’t be dancing the salsa like Cruz or dropping to my knee on the field like Tebow, I respect their lack of self-consciousness and freedom of expression. I can only hope as much for myself whether on the dance floor or anywhere else I need to lead.

Whatever end zone you may be running toward, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Dance your own dance!