A Homecoming Story | Gagen MacDonald

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A Homecoming Story

Jan 23, 2015
As an Ohio State football fan, I wanted to relay a recent observation I’ve had about the ability of personal narratives and authentic storytelling to power dynamic, inspired leaders.For those that don’t know, it’s been a very rough year for Ohio State football and its fans. An NCAA rules violation and related cover up cost us many of our best players for a season and our legendary coach, Jim Tressel, for good. In 11 months, our brand went from storied to toxic.However, at our lowest point this fall, it turned out, we had a saving grace: Another legendary coach (and former Ohio State assistant), born and bred in Ohio, burnt out and recently retired from the University of Florida after leading the school to two national titles in six seasons, sat idle in early retirement. That is, until the lure of restoring the program he grew up loving was too enticing to resist.When Urban Meyer was announced as the new coach of THE Ohio State University six weeks ago, everything changed. Recruits who had once written us off as damaged goods came back for a second look. Many will be enrolling next fall. Fans who had hidden their jerseys in the depths of their closets returned to stores so they could don brand new threads next season. Players who had thought of fleeing for greener pastures chose to stay for another year in the Buckeye family. Suddenly, the story changed, and we were the comeback kids, the rightful heirs to a lost throne.The reason all this happened isn’t because Urban came to Ohio State promising to install his vaunted spread option offense, or to capitalize on strategic recruiting advantages inherent to Ohio State. The reason, I believe, is because, as a leader, he told the world a powerful and personal story: He said he was coming to Ohio State because Ohio State was home. That authentic touch made all the difference.The whole episode has reminded me a lot of Howard Schultz’s story of his return to Starbucks. After leaving the company originally, he came back not to capitalize on some array of under-leveraged strategic opportunities; he came back because he loves Starbucks and it is home.Strategies are great. They’re the arteries and the veins that keep the leaders of corporations, governments, and college football teams running. But it’s their heart that makes them tick. These hearts are often simply the stories we tell.
/ Jan 23, 2015

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