Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership. First things first, though, I’m sure readers would love to learn more about you. How did you get here?
Santana: My determination and hard work are what got me here. When it was time to hang up my cleats, the first thing I thought was, “what’s next?” One thing I knew for sure is that I know how to grind, so I stepped out and took the first opportunity that came at me which was completing my MBA at the University of Miami. That experience really helped me cope with the void left not playing football. From there, I knew one of two potential doors would open for me: coaching or getting into media. Not long after I retired, I attended a Redskins game and was approached about getting into broadcasting. It’s been a great fit.
Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth as a leader?
Santana: There will always be obstacles, so there isn’t one in particular that has been instrumental. I calculate my setbacks by how they come and how often they come. I see obstacles for what they and realize it’s up to me to figure out how I address them. If you approach challenges with a positive attitude and remain focused on your larger goal, they can be viewed as opportunities to learn.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?
Santana: Talk less, do more. Be consistent. I always tried to be the guy who didn’t talk a whole lot. I tried to lead by example. People believed me because they watched me and they saw the same thing on game day as they saw in practice. Leaders are the most effective when they walk the walk and act with integrity.
Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Santana: A leader can take their skills to the next level simply by sharing their knowledge. Others respect those who share the real story. Few leaders have gotten to their position without challenges. There was likely a few battles along the way, so leaders should share what happen and how they overcame them. I never thought I’d be in a position to sit in front of people and talk about all that I’ve done. I talk about the injuries, the times coaches told me I wouldn’t play anymore, so they understand that what I have wasn’t given. But even in the face of adversity I still stayed positive and focused on meeting my goals.
Adam: What is the best advice you have on building, managing and leading teams?
Santana: Character is the key. If I was building a football team, for example, I’d look at each player’s character. I would look at who he is, not just on the football field, but how he conducts his life. A man should not be judged by his mistakes, but how he learned from them and moved on from that lesson. The type of people you want on your team are people with good character, who want to learn, can be coached, and understand what it takes to win.
Adam: Who are or were your mentors and how did they shape your personal and professional success? How do you pay it forward?
Santana: In life, you cross paths with many people who have an impact on who you’ll become. One person that stands out in my mind was my high school football coach, Walt Frazier. Before each practice he would talk with us players about to conduct ourselves as men. Many of the lessons he taught then I am reliving today. My parents also had a huge influence on who I am. Growing up friends knew that I had people, particularly a man, in my life who told me right from wrong. I truly appreciate all my father taught me. My parents molded me into someone who is able to think clearly about the bigger picture–on the football field, but also in my personal life.
I pay it forward by walking in the light that my mentors shined on me. Every day I try to be the person these influential people wanted and expected me to be. I try to be a role model for others as to how to represent yourself.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they impacted your development as a leader?
Santana: Time spent with family and friends is very important to me. I really love to go bowling and watch movies. Making time for those you love refreshes you. It also keeps you focused on getting your work tasks completed so you can be present and enjoy the quality time.
Adam: Is there anything else you‘d like to share?
Santana: Throughout my career I have always been about giving
back to the community – particularly the kids. Through my organizations, the
Santana Moss Foundation and 89 Ways to Give, I try to give kids from all walks
of life the opportunity and confidence that they can achieve what they want to