Leadership, Purpose, Sports Business, Success, Training, Coaching, Best seller

The Power of Playing Offense: 5 Ways to Level Up as a Leader

by paul epstein - Former NFL & NBA Business Executive | Author | Speaker | Podcast Host | Leadership Coach | Founder, Purpose Labs
March 29, 2021

Reflecting back on my nearly 15-year journey leading business teams in the professional sports world, there is an inspiring insight I am drawn to, as a leader—and it comes from me challenging the status quo. I was always taught that leadership is tied to position, rank, role, or title. I now look at business, life, and leadership completely different – because if we tie the concept of leadership to requiring a certain title, that means that less than 10% of the working world (per an org chart) is a leader – and that is not the working world I imagine.

I believe each and every person reading this is a leader, or at minimum, has the potential to be, tomorrow, with no title required. And here is the premise…

"Before we lead others, we must first lead ourselves"

This is the driving force of my newly released book, The Power of Playing Offense: a Leader’s Playbook for Personal and Team Transformation. Notice the order of the subtitle…before we can transform our team, we must first transform ourselves. The same applies for leadership, as true leadership starts by leading self. Now, let’s interact with the playbook…

Think of the greatest leader you’ve ever had, in any walk of life. Chances are they led with behaviors and actions that inspired you to follow. Not follow their title. Not follow them because they were a boss or manager. Instead you followed who they were as a person. You followed their character. Their values. You were drawn to how they led themselves, and in turn, it led to them being a more effective leader of others.

So with that understanding and reframing of leadership, my hope is that you now believe YOU ARE A LEADER – effective immediately. If that is the case, allow me to share 5 proven ways you can step into leadership of self so you can realize your full potential and level up your impact, as a leader, going forward.

The 5 Pillars of Playing Offense

1. Live with Championship Purpose

You must know WHY you play the game you play. Do you believe there is a deeper purpose to what you do? Do you feel a part of something bigger than yourself? While purpose may feel too large to tackle in a single moment, start by taking a single step toward your purpose. An action item to consider: identify a core value of yours by thinking of either a word that inspires you or by asking your 5 closest relationships to describe you with one word. Lock in on that value and start to make daily decisions through it, by taking action. With this framework, your values are now the guide to your daily decisions and actions – which is a first step to live (and lead) with championship purpose.

2. Be the Storm Chaser

For some, when adversity hits, they hide or avoid it all costs. Others understand that adversity is inevitable, all adversity is temporary, and can harness the power of facing adversity head on to cultivate grit and master resilience. In sports terms, the way you chase the storm is to build muscle memory on how you overcame adversity (fear, risk, uncertainty, anxiety) in the past, study the behaviors, actions, and decisions on HOW you overcame it, bottle up the learnings, then dust it off when adversity is reintroduced into your life. You do this so you can repeat the play pattern on how to transform adversity into achievement, again and again. Study the storms of your past, apply it to the present, empower your future.

3. Salute the Long Snapper

Not everybody in life is destined to be a star quarterback, certainly not in every moment in every day. The reality is sometimes we’re called on to be the QB. Other times we are the role player—and that’s ok. Regardless of which hat we’re wearing in the moment, we must realize that great leaders uplift the entire locker room, not just the star performers. If people feel they have a seat at the table, they show up in special ways. You make me feel small, I play small. You make me feel valued and appreciated, now I stretch above and beyond, and the world will realize my strengths, gifts, talents, and passions – because they took the time to salute me, the long snapper. Salute a long snapper in your life, just to let them know they matter, and they can make the difference between winning and losing.

"When you transform from a life of self to a life of service, contribution, impact, and legacy – that’s when significance forms."

4. Embody Gold Jacket Culture

While culture is often thought of as this grand organizational dynamic, the reality is all culture is local. Ask me about the culture of a company, I need to first know who the leader is, what department, even what floor of the building. Every leader has their own weather system, and local culture. Floor 3 we’re high-fiving, Floor 4 watch out boss is around the corner. Same company, completely different feel. What is the weather system every time you walk in the room? What is your energy level? You have your own culture, whether you realize it or not. It’s time to put a gold jacket on (as hall-of-famers do) so you can lead a culture of self, because that’s a culture you fully control.

5. Leave it Better than You Found It

Bottom line, every person and every place should be better when you walk away. Otherwise, why engage in the first place? I used to think life was solely about success…trophies, achievements, big brands. Now I realize it is a YES AND game. Yes to success, AND yes to significance. When you transform from a life of self to a life of service, contribution, impact, and legacy – that’s when significance forms and you are fulfilled in ways that success rarely achieves on its own. The best part, I don’t know a single person, or leader, that feels significance, and is not successful. Lead with significance.

These are the 5 pillars of Playing Offense, and I believe these 5 mindsets and practices can propel you, as a leader of self, to show up at your best. Once you lead yourself at the highest of levels, leading teams and organizations falls into place—because it’s not about being the first to get there, it’s about being the best once you do get there.

To learn more about how to activate the 5 Pillars of Playing Offense in your business, your leadership, and your life, I’d be honored if you picked up a copy of my newly released book, currently a Top New Release and bestseller in the sports industry, The Power of Playing Offense.

Order your copy on Amazon here. https://www.amazon.com/Power-Playing-Offense-Playbook-Transformation/dp/1645436241

I’m excited to meet you at the 50, so we can play offense, together!

Your Partner in Purpose,


PS – shoot me a connect on LinkedIn, I'd love to stay in touch throughout your leadership journey

Paul Epstein is an expert in leadership and organizational culture with nearly fifteen years of experience as a professional sports executive for multiple NFL and NBA teams, a global sports agency, and the NFL league office leading and coaching business teams, most recently with the San Francisco 49ers. It was there that Paul had a life-changing transformation. He found his ‘Why’ which is to inspire purpose in others so they can play offense in life. A calling he has followed ever since.

As Founder of Purpose Labs, Paul is on a mission to impact millions of lives by sharing his message of Playing Offense as an author, keynote speaker, business coach, and leadership trainer. He has installed the Playing Offense playbook with professional sports organizations, Fortune 500 leadership teams, Chief People Officers, MBAs, and professional athletes all to live and lead with greater purpose, performance, and impact.

Paul received his MBA from the University of Michigan, following his undergraduate degree at USC. He resides in Pasadena, CA with his wife, two labradoodles, and their future leader, PJ._