2022’s Unlikely Underdog Leaders

2022 was unique in that two unlikely leaders in two very different situations arose and captured the moment, inspiring others with their decisive leadership.

When you are interested in researching business terms like “leadership,” the best place to find articles about leadership is at the Library, using one of the many business databases, such as the Small Business Reference Center.

According to Liz Mignault in “Leadership Depends on Your Actions, Not Your Job Title, (Administrative Professional Today. Jan2023, Vol. 49 Issue 1, p7-7. 2/3p.)

“Leading isn’t always based on a textbook definition. Leading responsibly occurs when employees and stakeholders at all levels are involved and actively engaged in the common goals and vision of the organization. Each employee, regardless of title, has an opportunity to contribute to the effective and responsible leadership of the organization.”

Both Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the San Francisco 49er’s Brock Purdy didn’t have time to speak when they were called to perilous leadership positions.  They both acted confidently and inspirationally, helping their people to find their way.  They both inspired their respective groups to move beyond widespread low estimations of their worth.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy

When Russia’s President Vladimir Putin initiated a “special military operation” on Ukraine by massing troops on its borders and invading the country on February 24, 2022, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was already hunkering down for a prolonged siege by activating his media operations to unite worldwide support for Ukraine.

President Putin anticipated that President Zelenskyy would quickly fold in fear and hand over Ukraine to the ambitious Putin.

After all, President Zelenskyy was a well-known comedian and actor whose show, Servant of the People, can still be viewed online.  In Servant, Zelenskyy becomes the unlikely President of Ukraine when a viral meme sends him to the top.

Like the character on the show, Zelenskyy used his television popularity to get elected to Ukraine’s Presidency in 2019.  Unlike his character, Zelenskyy soon found himself in a perilous situation a few years later, when Russia invaded.

Instead of folding, President Zelenskyy used his finely-honed skills from his acting days to gain world-wide attention for the beleaguered Ukraine.  In a series of adept moves, he gained support from the United Nations, Europe, other nations, and the United States.

Inspiring his citizens by showing that he was staying and fighting with them, Ukrainians quickly stood up and fought the invaders, who started to become demoralized as the siege stretched from the anticipated days into long months.

President Zelenskyy continues to use his powerful worldwide platform to move sluggish nations into helping him with funding, arms, or other needed items.

Though Brock Purdy is not involved in worldwide politics like President Zelenskyy, his story is just as inspiring.

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Brock Purdy

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Brock Purdy has been a Mr. Irrelevant for much of his football career.

Players chosen last in the National Football League Draft are called Mr. Irrelevant and feted with a comical Mr Irrelevant celebration in Newport Beach, California.  Started in 1976 by Paul Salata, the celebration is meant to uplift the “underdog” in addition to raising money for charities.

The 262nd pick in the draft, Purdy had already experienced his “irrelevancy” as a quarterback from his high school, Perry High School in Queen Creek, Arizona.  A dual athlete in baseball and football, he chose to advance his athletic career as a football player.  By the way, his baseball training has been the foundation of his unique skills at scrambling and throwing at different angles.  Though hyped by his high school coach, Purdy found that he was not being courted by colleges, even though he had uplifted his high school’s football program.

Deeply religious and taught by his parents to always “be prepared,” Purdy eventually saw college offers come in later in his senior year of high school.  He chose Iowa State University, over football powerhouse University of Alabama.  Why?  Iowa State coach Matt Campbell ensured that there was a big welcome on campus when Purdy visited, and he told Purdy that he was necessary in uplifting the Big 12 football program.

When Purdy arrived in Santa Clara in 2022, he followed his family’s motto, “be prepared.”  Though a third string quarterback, following Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy prepared himself by studying Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive playbook and by tutoring new recruits like Christian McCaffrey, who describes Purdy as “selfless,” “calm,” “confident,” and of “high character.”  All great qualities in a leader!

With his highly disciplined preparation, respect of peers and administrators, and a drive to succeed, it is easy to see why Brock Purdy was such a successful quarterback for the 49ers.

Finally, there are two kinds of videos online that exemplify the kind of leader he is:

  • Purdy rushing over to give his family hugs after each game.  He knows which people have always had his back, when others doubted.  It is touching to see that he is grounded, respectful and humble.
  • After a successful pass results in a touchdown to running back Elijah Mitchell in the wild card game against the Seattle Seahawks, Purdy jubilantly thumps his chest.  This demonstration of his love of the game motivated the team to work even harder afterwards.

Unfortunately, Purdy was injured in the NFC Championship game.  As he goes through surgery and rehab, we all wish him well!

Learning how great leaders develop is a great way to learn how to be a great leader yourself.  One of the Library’s databases is a great resource for learning leadership skills.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda.com, is a valuable resource for those who want to develop or polish their leadership skills!

Here are some lessons in leadership on the site:

  • Become a Leader
  • Leadership Foundations
  • Leading Others Effectively
  • Growing Your Skills as a Leader
  • Improving Your Leadership Communications

When you are an effective leader, your employees will thank you!

Please send me any questions in the comments section below!

Books About Leadership

Leadership, book cover
Culture Rules, book cover
Good Power, book cover
Overcoming Impossible, book cover
The Act of Leadership, book cover
Perform Under Pressure, book cover