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Ben Roethlisberger and Leadership

February 11, 2011

Ben Roethlisberger and Leadership:

When you think of the qualities of a leader, what comes to mind? Let’s take it out of the sports arena for a minute – think about people in your life who you have admired as leaders, and think of their qualities. Here are a few that come to my mind:

  • Someone who is trustworthy,
  • who has integrity,
  • gets the job done,
  • inspires others,
  • listens to people,
  • works well with others,
  • who has good moral character, and
  • someone who does the right thing, even under pressure.

I will add to that someone who is self-reflective and self-corrective, always looking to see how he or she can improve him or herself. This is why my attention was piqued in a recent newscast that questioned using the word “leader” in association with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger; a man whose behavior off the field, from his interactions with other sports players to sportscasters to his personal life, has been questioned enough to have had him suspended for four games in the 2010 season.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t much follow professional sports. The fact that I would even know Mr. Roethlisberger’s name is probably confounding some. But leadership is something that is on my radar, and repairing our world – what Judaism refers to as “tikkun olam” – is one of my highest priorities. Since leadership in its best sense is about bringing good into the world, I was all ears, and I followed up with solid research.

According to football experts, being a quarterback is enough to have one coined “leader.” As a position of respect, on which a great deal of the success of the game is placed, this might seem like a natural conclusion, all the more so for a player like Roethlisberger who has such an incredible record on the field. And while this might be accurate for a player when he/she is in the game, what of a player’s behavior off the field? And what of the role that he or she is a model for adults and children alike that look to this “leader” as one to emulate? Do we take these factors into account when we use the term “leader?” Perhaps, with regards to some of Roethlisberger’s past choices, this term was applied rather loosely.

But let’s look at Mr. Roethlisberger this year. One of my criteria for leadership, as I mentioned, is self-reflection with the goal of self-improvement. A man who was not respected by many of his teammates for a number of years has now been praised by several other quarterbacks for his personal growth. In fact, the Pittsburgh media voted him as this year’s most cooperative Steeler; a huge change from his past. Roethlisberger responded by saying, simply, “When faced with challenges in life you try to overcome them.”

This is very positive. It’s inspiring to see people in highly visible positions take charge of themselves, become accountable for their growth, and make wiser choices. It gives us faith in them, and faith in ourselves as well. They can now serve as models for others who are striving to overcome mistakes and poor judgment. Ben has demonstrated that it is possible to turn things around. This is not to condone any of his past actions that have been questionable, but to emphasize that his current behavior demonstrates personal growth and a constructive new direction. Should Ben remain on this path, this is what would define him as a leader. And his example will inspire many who desire to make similar changes and comebacks.

In fact, for a man who has rallied his team many times to win football games when it was behind in fourth quarter, this might be Ben’s biggest and most important comeback of all.

Robin Damsky

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Aless Mc permalink
    May 26, 2011 6:48 am

    Hello Steve and Robin,

    I am currently editing a blog on shared leadership written by Edith Luc, a Canadian psychologist.
    I find your viewpoint in this article similar to her writing on leadership, I was wondering if you would be interested in posting one of her articles on your blog in the leadership section or just reading through her ideas.
    Its a recent blog, it was created this month but is regularly updated.

    Anyway, check it out the link is (you can choose between an english or french version.

    Keep up the good work, I really enjoy reading your articles!


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