Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

The Uniform of Leadership: Lessons on True Success from My ESPN Life by Jason Romano

The Uniform of Leadership: Lessons on True Success from My ESPN Life by Jason Romano. Kregel Publications. 192 pages. 2020

The author spent seventeen years at ESPN as a senior manager and producer, which is where he learned how to be a leader. He uses the idea of a uniform throughout the book. He tells us that we all wear a uniform. On the front is the name of the team or city we represent. On the back is our name. In this book, he shows us how to wear our uniforms well.
The book is comprised of relatively short chapters that cover leadership lessons that the author learned while at ESPN. In each chapter, he illustrates the points he is making with inspiring stories about athletes or coaches that he met while a talent producer at ESPN. Some of the people he writes about are Kobe Bryant, Tony Dungy, Drew Brees, Jennie Finch, Dwight “Doc” Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Pete Carroll, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bob Ley, Larry Bird and Rob Gronkowski. Though many of the stories in the book are sports or ESPN-related, they exemplify the uniform makeup of leadership in all aspects of life, in the home, workplace, sports, etc.
A key story that he shares early in the book involves Tony Dungy and his assistant, and Dungy’s question to the author about how was living out his faith at ESPN. That question would turn out to be life changing, and the author would come to believe that he could shine Christ’s light at ESPN. For him, and us, life is about thriving in the place God has put us. You don’t have to leave where you are serving and move to a “full-time Christian ministry”. Instead, you can represent Christ and bloom right where you are planted.
Each chapter ends with helpful “Putting on the Uniform” and “Discussing the Uniform” sections to help the reader go deeper into the material discussed in that chapter. I found this to be a helpful book on leadership and on integrating our faith with our work.
Below are 20 of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • Teamwork rises out of relationships—out of serving one another. It makes all the difference.
  • How will you be remembered? Will you be remembered as an others-focused leader, or as a teammate who made relationships and serving a priority?
  • Without a strong sense of identity, it is almost impossible to be a good leader.
  • Importance comes from worldly success. Value, however, comes from love. This is vital to remember in a world with systems that revolve entirely around performance. My value comes from just one thing, and it’s not how well I measure up by this world’s standards. It’s my identity as a child of God.
  • You are more than your performance.
  • Maybe you can’t control the circumstances, but you can control your response to them. Choose a godly attitude and it will ripple out to those around you. That’s leadership.
  • It’s your job as a leader to instill value in those you are leading.
  • Each of us has been given a sphere of influence, but it’s your choice whether you view your platform as something that lifts you up or as something you can use to lift up others.
  • It’s important for a leader to become increasingly outward-focused over time in order to leave lasting, positive imprints on others.
  • The true meaning of platform—of success—is using whatever skills, gifts, influence, and material possessions you have to lift up others, not yourself.
  • Leadership is more about being aware of people’s daily needs—being outward-focused—and doing the little things each day that let others know they are valued.
  • Consistent leaders—those who focus on the hearts and minds of those they are leading each day—create cultures that are consistently inspired.
  • Bold leaders aren’t interested in just blending in; they’re focused on making a difference and letting their voices be heard.
  • Failure is a gift. It can strengthen our direction. It can bring clarity in our processes. It can give us perspective. It can ignite growth and transformation. Failure doesn’t have to be feared.
  • You have the opportunity to share life with others and empathize with them—to understand their personalities, pressures, and struggles in life so you can offer them grace, compassion, and understanding.
  • When you show those you lead that you care about their entire lives, both at work and outside of work, you show them value.
  • I don’t know anyone who doesn’t benefit from words of affirmation. The best teams have people who affirm one another and also seek wise counsel and feedback on how they can improve.
  • A little bit of empathy changes everything. It always has and always will. Especially in a culture that is becoming increasingly self-serving, empathy stands out.
  • Your legacy of leadership may well be defined by how empathetic you are.
  • Leadership absolutely requires challenging those you lead, pushing them, and helping them to develop, but if you don’t make people feel valued and inspired, then you probably are not a good leader.