We take giving back to our communities seriously as the Unleashing Leaders team. The team gives back by donating to charities, volunteering our time, and sponsoring youth activities. We often get back even more than we give – as is the case here in this simple lesson we learned: Chin Up.

The Soccer Star

A few years ago, we sponsored a local competitive team for a neighbor kid named Brandon (we’ll use his real name because that’s what it is). He is a smart, strong, kind and all around good-natured young man. I love that kid!

 

leadership and soccer - the chin up move

The kids halt play to focus and learn

The coaches arranged to kick off the season with a clinic from a World Cup soccer player. He promised to teach them “the most important move in all of soccer.” The kids were pumped to learn. I and the rest of the dads were stoked to add this trick to their arsenal. And the moms were in high attendance for some strange reason to see this hot Latin American soccer star.

The Secret

Our expectations high, he took the field. Star struck, the kids (and parents) gazed in awe. He called them in, huddled them up and had them take a knee. In his Latin accent he shared, “And now, I’m going to teach you the most important move in soccer.” His gaze scanned the crowd to invite a slight nod that they were fully ready to receive this secret. When he was sure, he rested his hand under his chin. “The most important move in soccer . . . is to always keep your chin up,” he said.

Then he tilted his head up slightly and stared laser focused off to the horizon. There was a long pause. A dad broke the silence by asking, “And then…?” The player smirked slyly and said, “That’s it. That is the move.”

Faces contorted and confused, he let it settle in. For most parents, the initial unspoken thought was, “How much did we pay for THIS?!?”

Gradually, the point began to sink in. He elaborated, “This is the most important move, because it is the gateway that makes everything else possible. When your chin is touching your chest, all you can see is your feet. That doesn’t tell you anything. You already know where those are. But it blinds you. You don’t know what to do with them.”  Then he looked to the parents, “Remember bee-hive ball when they were younger? This is why.”

“Instead, when your chin is up, you see the whole field. Where is the goal? Where are your teammates and where are your opponents? And where is the play headed? NOW you can know where to go and what to do.”

Chin Up: How It Applies to Leadership

So I find this same principle applies on the field of leadership. Keeping your chin up does two things, both of which are a price of admission to being a leader. First, “chin up” is about keeping a proactive attitude. It is Covey’s First Habit of Highly Effective People after all. When your chin is down, you put yourself in a mopey, woe-is-me posture of the Hapless Victim.

 

5 Levels of Strategic Leaders

You’re stuck navel gazing at your own limited circumstances. You’re blinded to the assets around you. Neurology is a two way street. If you feel happy, you smile. It works both ways; if you smile, you’ll start to feel better. Physiology drives psychology.

The second is it helps you see the strategic landscape for your situation. Where is your goal? Where are the opportunities and threats? Your allies and opponents? Even more important than where things are, is seeing where they are headed. This perspective helps you make smarter choices to put yourself in the position of most opportunity.

So as you step on to your leadership field, remember, you already know where your feet are. They are attached to you! I say pick your chin up to get your physiology working for you. Keep your gaze level with the deck so you can see the dynamic landscape, as it is and as it unfolds. And then, right or wrong, you can confidently play your game.