A Lesson in Swagger: Effective Communication and Leadership Strategies Courtesy of NFL Coach Rex Ryan

13 Oct

New York Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan talks the talk and motivates his team to walk the walk. How? Simple. He embraces his swagger.

However, what is “swagger,” you ask? Is it remotely relevant to communication and leadership, let alone an appropriate blog topic? Read on.

Swagger is a demeanor characterized by well-deserved confidence, charisma, coolness, togetherness, and at times, arrogance.

In the realm of team sports, swagger is a valuable constituent of effective communication and leadership. As a coach and leader, Ryan’s swagger serves several purposes:

1)    It makes his persona captivating.

2)    It makes his claims credible and insights valuable.

3)    It conveys his passion for football, specifically, the Jets.

4)    It allows him to communicate high performance expectations to his constituents (players, coaches, and just as importantly, fans).

5)    It allows him to instill values of confidence and team work.

6)    And lastly, it develops a positive, poised energy that players, coaches, and fans, seek to emulate and build upon.

Okay, so what? How does this help?

Essentially, Ryan’s swagger makes his constituents want to listen to and take direction from him. Jet players willingly comply with his request that in interviews, they take time to acknowledge at least two teammates, and one coach; they trust his guidance and allow him to develop a healthy team-oriented, strength-emphasizing, communication-facilitating dynamic. The Jets praise Rex whenever given an opportunity not only for his vision and drive but also for his unique ability to unite and inspire them to exceed even their own performance expectations.

Jet players and coaches are not the only ones who listen when Ryan barks. Ryan’s swagger, as evidenced by the Jets’ huge social media audience, also intrigues Jet fans and the larger NFL community. Even before last season kicked off, the Jets’ Facebook followers increased by 87% and were deemed the team that “generated the most online buzz during the offseason from blogs, message boards/groups, Twitter, Facebook, and online news posts” (Ortiz). Ryan and passionate players have become experts in “creating buzz” as they play up the team’s strengths, convey confidence in its potential, and sometimes, when necessary, talk smack.

Alright, I follow. However, c’mon, you really expect me to believe that swagger is a valuable constituent of effective communication and leadership in the realm of business too?

YES. Ryan exemplifies how when used strategically, a leader’s swagger can help one to gain the respect of and motivate individuals, facilitate communication, and foster cooperation, enabling a team to develop a healthy dynamic and attain shared goals. Once leaders understand how to tap into their swagger, they can use it to exude a sense of assuredness and optimism that will bring them unmatched degrees of respect and trust from their coworkers and subordinates.

You know what they say… if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

by Casey Hochberg


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