June 21, 2010

Goizueta gives Falcons a leadership playbook

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan asks a question at the Atlanta Falcons Business and Leadership Summit. Credit: Jimmy Cribb

Speaking candidly to a room of athletes, football executives and high-profile business leaders, Goizueta Business School Dean Larry Benveniste said the world is in need of heroes.

He joined a host of other business leaders and celebrities in the first Atlanta Falcons Leadership and Business Summit June 9-10. The program, with support from Goizueta, was designed to prepare players for roles in business, philanthropy and life.

“[Heroes] give us a purpose,” Benveniste said to more than 30 Falcons players. “They give us the sense we can do the impossible. To many people, you’re already heroes.”

The event, a first of its kind among NFL franchises, was hosted at King & Spalding law firm.

Benveniste noted the character traits of former presidents John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., and their abilities to inspire.

He told players, including quarterback Matt Ryan, to reflect on the vision of great leaders and the courage shown by those that stood by values and actions.

“It’s been a great opportunity for a bunch of the guys on the team to come listen to people who have been highly successful in a number of different areas,” Ryan told “It’s really applicable to what we do. We can take some things that will help us with not only what we do this coming year and in the future and our NFL careers but beyond that. It’s been an awesome experience.”

Players and executives also heard from Chick-fil-A’s leadership team; radio and TV personality Clark Howard; former Baltimore Ravens head coach and FOX sports analyst Brian Billick; CNN’s Don Lemon; Southern Co. CEO David Ratcliffe; and founder of WebMD and current chief of global digital strategy for Discovery Communications, Jeff Arnold.

But leadership was the consistent theme.

Keys to being a leader, according to Benveniste and Goizueta’s leadership model, include the ability to strategize, receive and process criticism, relate to others, communicate and project confidence in the toughest of situations.

He encouraged players to take advantage of their position in society to make an impact.

“To get anything done you have to know what you want to do,” Benveniste said. “Given this gift of influence, you can do a lot beyond the football field. Pick a purpose… And hold onto it.”

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