Hall of Fame Gratitude & Humility: Emmitt Smith

I have been a fan of “The Team” from Texas, “America’s Team” since the man with the funny hat walked the sidelines many years ago. Last weekend I was never so proud to be a Cowboy fan as I was watching Emmitt Smith present his 24 minute speech after being inducted into Professional Football Hall of Fame.

Emmitt’s speech was full of gratitude and recognition of those who had contributed to his being on that platform on this very special night.

The most moving part of the speech was when he recognized his backfield running mate, Daryl Johnston. Daryl Johnston, better know as “Moose” by the Cowboy faithful, was the lesser known of the Cowboy backfield that won 3 Super Bowls together in the early 90’s.

Daryl’s primary role in the backfield was not to run the ball, “Moose” has less than 800 yards in his 10 year career with the Cowboys, he was a sacrificial lamb who paved the way for Emmitt’s record-setting career and protected Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman.

Emmitt had Daryl stand during the speech while he expressed his gratitude for the sacrifices he made to make Emmitt look good running the ball and setting the all time NFL rushing record. For me it was an example of gratitude and recognition at the highest level. Emmitt knew that he was not standing on the stage alone, Daryl was there beside him for he played a key role in Emmitt’s success.

Emmitt also recognized all the lineman who had blocked for him over his storied career and contributed to his success. This is the way success is supposed to look. When the light is shinning on you the brightest you let it reflect off of you to those who put you in that position. You don’t often see that type of humility and gratitude in our world today, especially in the world of professional sports.

I think Emmitt’s gratitude and humility provide some great leadership lessons for all of us. At a recent conference I attended Jim Collin’s detailed how humility was the key identifying factor between what he describes as a Level 5 leader versus a Level 4 leader. A level 5 leader is the best of the best of leaders of the good to great companies that they examined in their research for the book Good to Great. He describes level 4 leaders as very good and very competent leaders, but they have not yet reached the pinnacle of success that the level 5 leaders have obtained. He goes on to say the key ingredient that distinguishes these leaders from one another is humility.

In contrast to these level 5 leaders Collins details the pitfalls for leaders who aren’t characterized by this same humility. In his book, How the Mighty Fall, he list the first step to a leader’s or an organization’s downfall as hubris (outrageous arrogance).

The humility and gratitude that characterize Emmitt Smith are great traits for all of us as leaders to aspire to.

Check out this clip of Hall of Fame Gratitude & Humility:

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2 thoughts on “Hall of Fame Gratitude & Humility: Emmitt Smith

  1. Mark, I thought that was a terrific speech too. Like you, I grew up loving Coach Landry and Roger Staubach. Great people who achieve great things know that their success has many contributors. Good to see that full back acknowledged; I know you know that role well. Thanks for the post.

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