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  • Given my history on this blog, I never thought I’d write anything positive about anything to do with the Washington Redskins. After all, one of the most widely read posts I’ve ever written was one back in 2009 called Learning What Not to Do from the Leadership of the Washington Redskins. Heck, I even did a television interview on the topic. There is no denying that I’m on the record as thinking that the Redskins have had some pretty bad leadership for over a decade. I swore I wasn’t going to root for them until it improved.Well, it has and it comes in the form of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. It’s been a strange experience to find myself rooting for the Redskins but that’s what’s been happening this year as Griffin has led his team to the verge of the playoffs. The guy is so compelling I can’t help myself.It’s not just his play on the field, it is, as so many others have noted, how he leads on field and off. Take this past Sunday’s game against the Ravens as a case study in what makes RG III a leader. Fans know that Griffin was leading a last minute comeback when his right knee was whiplashed during a tackle. (The Washington Post has the complete story.) He limped off the field and told his coach he wanted to go back in on the next play. He did and threw two passes that moved Washington into the red zone. It was clear, though, that he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg and two plays later he crumpled to the ground and started crawling off the field until he was helped to his feet and carried off. As he was laying on the sideline getting examined, his back up, Kirk Cousins, threw for a touchdown and then scored a two point conversion on a QB sneak designed for RG III to send the game into overtime. By the time Washington got the ball in OT, Griffin was up with a knee brace, walking the sidelines, cheering on his team and embracing his teammates as the Redskins won with a field goal.This morning before an early flight back East out of LAX, I saw a dozen people staring at a TV to hear the ESPN update on RG III, the game and his knee. As soon as the story was over, the crowd dispersed. The average person, let alone the average NFL player, sees something special in RG III. He exhibits the traits of a leader that people naturally want to follow.Here are some that stand out for me:Credibility: Clearly, RG III has the goods that make him the top rated passer in the NFL. Leaders have to be great at what they do to establish credibility with the people they’re leading.Dedication: When Griffin was injured on Sunday, his first instinct was to keep playing because he was dedicated to leading his team to an important win.Wisdom: At the same time, Griffin had the wisdom to know that he was going to do his team more harm than good if he stayed in the game with an injury that kept him from performing as needed.Poise: With a torn ACL in his college history, it would have been all too easy for RG III to freak out on the sidelines after he went down with a potential season ending injury. Far from doing so, he got up as soon as he was able and showed the poise on the sidelines that great leaders exhibit when the pressure is on and the future uncertain.Humor: RG III uses humor at the right time and in the right way to make the people around him comfortable and optimistic. When asked in the post game press conference what he did when his knee was twisted he said with a smile, “I screamed. Like a man, of course.” That kind of self-deprecating humor from a leader gives others hope and confidence.Connection: At the end of the game yesterday, I was struck by the emotional hugs that Griffin shared with his teammates and how he slapped the palms of fans who were hanging over the railing as he walked off the field and through the tunnel. Leaders like RG III connect with people in a way that’s real.By the way he carries himself, Robert Griffin III plays the role of leader not just for himself but his new hometown.If you’re a fan of the NFL and a fan of great leadership, what other traits do you see in RG III that make him stand out?
  • Study: Early Childhood Education Is Best Crime-Fighting ToolWritten by  inShare Recently, law enforcement leaders in Portland, OR unveiled a new report from FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS that revealed that high-quality, early learning programs as a critical strategy to reduce crime, lower corrections costs and save taxpayers’ money.“I’ve been serving as a prosecutor here since 1981. As I get ready to retire, I hope we can leave a legacy of awareness about doing more for our kids. An early education for more kids means less incarceration down the road. The research shows it, and based on law enforcement experience, we believe it, too,” said Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk. “We’re proud to join Senator Merkley here to discuss the findings of this report and hope that it will help spread the word about the important crime-fighting benefits of investing in early care and education for our kids.”The group called on federal and state policymakers to support efforts to strengthen the quality of early learning and work to ensure that more children have access to these proven crime prevention programs.  Currently, Oregon serves 64 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds through Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten (OPK), reaching an estimated 13,000 low-income children. Nationally, only one in six eligible children can access child care benefits.“There is no doubt that early education works. Kids fare much better, get better jobs, and stay out of trouble. They return this investment to our communities many times over,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. “That is why it is of utmost importance that these programs are not cut as Congress works to balance the budget.”The law enforcement leaders shared with Senator Merkley their concern that unless Congress takes action on major fiscal issues, scheduled cuts mandated by budget “sequesters” could cause Oregon children to lose their place in Head Start and impact the quality of local programs. Recognizing that Congress and the state legislature must set budget priorities in the face of continuing deficits, the law enforcement leaders urged policymakers to protect—and when possible to increase—funding for federal child care benefits, Head Start and state matching funds for Head Start.“High-quality early learning programs have a profound impact on reducing later crime and violence. It’s much more expensive to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate than it is to start them off on the right path,” Captain Reiser said. “Making sure that kids have access to early care and education of high quality is a great step for crime prevention.”The leaders noted that Oregon is currently spending far more to incarcerate prisoners than to provide early education to Oregon children. In Oregon, taxpayers spend $976 million a year on corrections. By contrast, Oregon spends just a fraction of that on Head Start Prekindergarten and child care for young children, $81 million, and receives in $127 million federal grants for Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grants.A long-term study of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project in Ypsilanti, Michigan tracked disadvantaged children who attended high-quality preschool and a randomized control group of similar children left out. Over the course of nearly 40 years of follow-up, researchers found at age 27, those who had not been in the project were already five times more likely to be chronic lawbreakers with five or more arrests. By age 40, those who did not attend the program were two times more likely to become chronic offenders with more than 10 arrests and 50 percent more likely to be arrested for violent crimes. A cost-benefit analysis found that the Perry program returned to society an average of over $180,000 per child and provided a potential of $16 in benefits for every $1 invested.Oregon has taken important steps to continue enhancing the quality of early care and education programs, and is currently creating a system to provide parents and communities with quality ratings and information about the quality of specific programs. At the federal level, efforts are underway to improve the quality of the Federal Head Start program, but more quality improvements are still needed to help reach its full potential.
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