By Kevin Hogencamp
While having a robust skillset is one thing and strong character is something entirely different, the two combined are like peas and carrots in the formula for success in business leadership.
That was among the key messages conveyed Tuesday by former National Football League standouts Tony Boselli, Donovin Darius and Isaiah “Ike” Harris at a Davis Leadership Series program presented by Jacksonville University’s Davis Leadership Center.
“I’ve never seen anyone who is a successful leader who is not good at what they do and who does not also have good character – whether it’s on the football field or in the business world or anywhere else. The two go hand in hand,” said Boselli, 40, an All-Pro Jacksonville Jaguars tackle-turned-entrepreneur and broadcaster who along with his wife, Angi, founded and The Boselli Foundation and the Tony Boselli Youth Life Learning Center.
Darius, a former Jaguar strong safety who also has business and philanthropic interests, said Boselli has always exemplified the successful leadership model.
“Tony earned my respect not because of anything he said to me but because I watched his work on the field during the week and on Sundays, and I watched his life off the field,” said Darius, whose Next Level Training and Performance organization focuses on character, athletic and spiritual development. “He led by example and it’s no longer he’s still successful today.”
The event at the Davis College of Business, titled “Football to Business – Lessons in Leadership and Character,” was moderated by leadership center co-director Dr. Julius Demps, who was among Darius’ professors when Darius began taking executive business management courses on Thursday evenings in 2006 while he was still playing professional football.
“What JU, Dr. Demps and (JU Hugh Culverhouse Professor of Economics) Dr. (Hassan) Pordeli did for me is provide the foundation for my transition from football to the business world,” said Darius, 37. “I had great professors who cared about my education and success, and I also developed great friendships while I was at JU. My JU experience contributed largely to who I am and where I am today.”
Of the speakers, it was Harris, 59, who mapped out a career plan as a young professional athlete and followed it from Day 1. Bucking the trend of professional athletes, particularly today’s stars, Harris was a receiver for the St. Louis Cardinals and New Orleans Saints for six months of the year and a successfully practicing certified public accountant for the remaining six months. A professional football player from 1975 to 1981, Harris has served as president of BellSouth Enterprises and now is chairman of CIGNA Corp.
“I knew early on that I wouldn’t be a professional football player very long if I didn’t treat (the job) as a professional and if I didn’t prepare myself. I knew I had to do a great job even on days that I didn’t feel like it,” he said. “The same applies to the business world.”
Work ethic and following the rules are hallmarks of success in any field, Harris said.
“In fact, most years the most gifted receiver in training camp, people far more talented than me, didn’t make the team” because of character issues, he said.
Responding to a question from the audience, the three speakers offered their definitions of character.
Darius said, “character is doing what is right because it’s right”; Boselli said a person of character “puts community first instead of self first”; and Harris offered, “a person of character basically has no gap between how they walk and how they talk.”
The Davis Leadership Center is an academic center staffed by a team of experts in the field of leadership development. Davis Business College faculty and professional staff guide students through their graduate education experience and offer leadership development services for businesses and other private and public sector organization.
For more information on the Davis Leadership Center, contact Dayle Lasonde-Smith at 256-7456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.