Monday, January 28, 2008
The Commissioner’s Message – “Be true to Yourself”
In business sports and the media there are those at the top we look upon as being larger than life, leaders in their field who present a mildly intimidating appearance to the general public. Last April at UJA Federation’s Taking Care of Business event, Canadian Football League commissioner Mark Cohon sat on a panel with his colleagues and peers, including from David Cynamon, head of the Toronto Argo’s, Paul Godfrey and Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chuck Swirksy lead commentator for the Toronto Raptors. He addressed a mixed audience of young professionals and various other industry heads on the importance of being earnest. Last Friday at the Exchange Tower’s Riocan boardroom, a second opportunity for an up close and personal Q&A session with the CFL’s commissioner was hosted by the Birthright Alumni Committee’s Bay St. breakfast series. Approximately 35 Birthright Alumni were in attendance nashing on bagels and various shmears, while Mark provided insights on CFL initiatives and more importantly, imparted some useful words of wisdom regarding leadership in life and business.
In at least one aspect of our lives our identity drives us to become a leader. Fashioned for the most part by three main factors, family, society and mentors found along the way in our professional careers. No matter on what level it manifests itself, being a good leader means balancing. Knowing when to take the reins and when to take a step back to listen, learn and improve our viewpoint on matters of importance is essential. A dynamic method of instituting this discipline within oneself is to travel or even work outside of Canada to obtain perspective on world views with respect to our very own country.
Mark’s primary message of being true to oneself was applied quite seamlessly to a lesson in marketing. In our daily lives we all deal in some sort of product, be it our image, a type of investment, or a consumer item such as a Canadian Jewish publication. When it comes to branding, creating a long lasting awareness and attractiveness to your image or a particular item requires a strict adherence to base principles what that product stands for at its core. Any deviation from that foundation and according to Mark, any marketing plan is sure to meet a significant degree of failure.
Stories were recounted, personal in nature, of how Mark successfully rose to his current status as the Commissioner for the CFL. All the while he expressed how important surrounding one’s self with family is from the lessons he was taught growing up to the loving support he received. Now with a two year old daughter he has begun passing those same lessons learned to the next generation. We all strive for balance in our life from work to play, yet often we neglect community involvement. For true self fulfillment, perhaps unknowingly so, Mark brought forth a kabalistic type lesson, insisting that becoming immersed in community causes and performing acts of Tzedakah brings us spiritually closer to our purest form, whether it be giving of ourselves financially or just of our time.
In a close knit interactive setting the 35 of us quickly realized a larger-than-life figure out there in the public eye, spearheading a much loved sports franchise across the country, strives at his core, to be the best human being he can possibly be. Of course, we the Jewish people have also been commanded to be what was it again? Oh, that’s right, “a light unto the nations”. Well, there are worse things we could be.