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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Krafty Leaders
By Kathleen Alfiero

  Kathleen Alfiero

Kathleen Alfiero

We’re sitting in the seventh row at the New England Patriots football game in Foxboro, Massachusetts in October wearing our summer clothes. I thought I was being a good sport months ago when I agreed to attend a fall football game with my husband Nick. When he invited me, I answered (semi-enthusiastically), “I’m happy to go with you,” while really thinking, “Yikes...it’ll be chilly by then!”

The sun is beating on our faces. It’s 88 degrees—not 60! I’m not an avid football fan, but I must admit—like a lot of New Englanders these days—that I can really get into it when I get to see Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback, on TV, and maybe now in person!

I’m intrigued by the variety of people standing on the sidelines before the game. If our goal is to people-watch, we have perfect seats.

“ I see Tom Brady!” I gasp. If you’re alive, you’ve heard how gorgeous Tom Brady is.

“Tom has his helmet off, if you want to get a good look at him,” my husband offers. If I was a good sport for coming to the game with Nick, he was paying me back by giving me this moment of Brady-ogling without guilt! We talked about what a great quarterback Brady is, hoping that one more time he leads his team down the field to win this game.

Many other interesting-looking men and women catch my eye. Some look official with their microphones and cameras, navy shirts, khaki pants, and official tags. I assume they are working (possibly members of the press?) and not VIP guests. Scanning the crowd, I notice a woman who looks to be in her thirties wearing a “little black dress” more fitting at a cocktail party. I want to know more about her. Is she a sponsor, or maybe the wife of one? Now I’m having fun!

There’s Bill Belichick, the head coach of the Patriots, putting on his headphones. I’m thrilled to see him. I’ve been impressed with Bill’s calm, confident leadership style. I surprised my husband and son (and myself) years ago when I read his autobiography, The Education of a Coach. This is the man many call the best coach in the National Football League.

Leaders who live by the clarity of their own example fascinate me. I learned that Bill was hired by Patriots owner Bob Kraft because Mr. Kraft believed that Bill’s leadership skills were solidified by his passion and understanding of the game they both loved. The Cleveland Browns had fired Bill after what was described as an unsuccessful stint as head coach. Bob Kraft valued Bill Belichick’s brilliance and willingness to learn from things that hadn’t gone well in his career. Bill is known to be a consummate student of football strategy . I think that Bob Kraft trusted his instincts when he hired Bill in 2000. Bob Kraft and Bill Belicheck now share three Super Bowl trophies to remind them, for one thing, to always follow their inner guidance and to believe in what can be.

I grab the binoculars from my husband’s lap. We’re sitting so close to the field that I feel like a voyeur. I focus the lens on Bob Kraft. Mr. Kraft is wearing a well-tailored charcoal-gray suit with a flashy pink tie. He has the presence and aura of a privileged man. He’s shaking hands warmly with members of the distinctive crowd. I notice him patting the shoulder of a handsome black man whose huge stature suggests that he is likely a highly paid NFL player without a uniform. Why do people with financial means have that “special” look, I wonder to myself.

There’s a lot to take in and people to check out, but I find myself fixated on Bob Kraft. I saw him interviewed recently on TV talking about his love for his wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, who passed away from cancer on July 20, 2011. Mr. Kraft was emotional and yet his voice was strong as he articulated what he believes was the essence of his Myra’s life. She gave of herself to her children, grandchildren, and to the community. When her husband decided to buy a football team, she grew to love the Patriots players and staff, and they came to love her.

“The reach of my sweetheart was unbelievable,” Mr. Kraft told the reporters. “The Robert K. and Myra H. Kraft Foundation, her foundation, which focuses its philanthropic endeavors on furthering education initiatives and other civic-minded causes, has raised three million dollars, and it’s going to be an additive to her legacy of giving back to those in need in the community for years to come.”

Thanks to the magnification of our binoculars, I could not only see that Mr. Kraft was being gracious and kind to everyone, I could feel that he meant it. No doubt he meets new people every day—people who are impressed with him, many of whom want something from him. I studied his behavior through the powerful lens. I sense that he is comfortable with himself, that he cares about other people, and that he is a good man. I not only feel a personal connection to him—I like him! I wish him well.

The Patriots players are running out onto the field right in front of us. Every one of their helmets bears an MHK insignia. I’m sure that they wear Myra Kraft’s initials with respect and love. They honor her husband, the head coach, the quarterback, the players, and the fans.

We won the game! It was a great evening. I enjoyed it all—especially the opportunity to be an eyewitness to leaders who were being who they are, going for it, enjoying life. While maybe unaware at the time, they remind us all to feel joy from being who we really are and doing what we love.

Every one of us is, at one time or another, a good leader. A good leader uplifts people. Powerful leaders are passionate people and have an obvious zest for life. They influence others by their positive sense of self. They do not do things to win the approval of others; they do things because they care about themselves and others. Positive leaders have self-acceptance. We are influenced by people who stay true to themselves, who seek improvement, and who are happy.

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