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Commentary: Leadership

By Dan Lenard

Buffalo, NY – It's been two weeks since the Buffalo Sabres finally succumbed to their insurmountable injuries and ended their exciting season. Other listener commentators have heaped their deserving praise on the team as it lifted municipal pride in Buffalo and gave us all a thrill ride of emotions we will not soon forget. I too salute those young men for making us all feel alive every other night for that month and a half.

As one who has savored the thrill of victory in over 30 years of donning ice skates and goalie pads, I have always been intrigued by the strange synchronicity that occurs to create winning or championship team. What made one team better than everyone else any particular year? Great players? One or two great players, does not a championship team make. Lack of competition? I can remember each playoff game I ever played in as a battle. In each case of the 7 championship teams I played on, one factor always trumped the rest. Leadership. There was always someone who would step up, have courage, say the right thing or say something with their skill on the ice at just the right time. In order to excel, you have to be inspired. You have to bring out something from deep inside you didn't know was there. You have to take risks. Leaders take risks and show us all to have the courage to take them. It's true in sports, and it's true in life.

The Sabres showed us what can happen when average people are properly lead. Coach Lindy Ruff lead the way with his courage this year, dealing with a family health crisis and then having the courage to change strategies mid-game or throw unproven talent on the ice when key injuries started to pile up. Captains Chris Drury and Daniel Breire, stepping up at the right time with a key goal or a gusty play when they knew they had to. Veteran Jay McKee sacrificing his battered body, leading the league in blocked shots. Mike Grier settling the younger players down with his veteran determination along the boards. They were all shining examples of what leadership is about. You get people to do the things they need to do to be successful by doing it yourself and showing how. The end result was a team of leaders. Everyone stepped up when they needed to.

Here's the lesson Western New York and our whole country can take away from this spring's drama on ice. With a few exceptions, our community leaders seem small in comparison to those young men who put it all on the line representing us on the ice.

Our leaders don't lead. They are focused on their own agendas and they don't take risks, at least not for us. They use government to their own ends. They see us as obstructionists to their will and not as representatives of our will. That is what has kept progress and economic opportunity from our beleaguered community. They aren't willing to look outside the box of what suits the aims of the dictatorial power elites in Albany.

The two exceptions? Brian Higgins and Satish Mohan. They stick their necks out, they buck the status quo, they push to make changes where changes need to be made, thereby representing the will of the people, and not their political party. Men like these inspire us to take Western New York to a whole new level. But back to the Sabres for a moment. At the top of the command chain was owner Tom Galisano. The Sabres success started with his risk of buying a dying franchise, his cool headed confidence in his management team and his vision and commitment to winning without extravagance. That's the kind of leadership that leads to success. Just imagine where New York State would be with leadership like that in the Governor's mansion.

"Looking Outside the Box" with veteran broadcaster and professional narrator Dan Lenard is a monthly feature of WBFO News.

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