Episode 328 – Reggie Williams talks about being thrust into leadership, parallels between sports and business and listening to the pain

Leadership, Podcast

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Reggie Williams is a lifelong athlete and community leader who spent 14 years in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals before being hired as Director of Sports Development for Disney on April 19, 1993. In the mid-1990s, he oversaw the creation of Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, a state-of-the-art 220-acre multi-sport facility that hosts more than 180 athletic events annually in some 30 sports. By 1998, he had become Vice President of Disney Sports Attractions, where he oversaw a newly created sports and recreation division that merged Walt Disney World Resort Recreation, Water Parks, and Disney Sports Attractions. In this interview, Reggie talks about being thrust into leadership, parallels between sports and business and listening to the pain. 

Being thrust into leadership

“In leadership, everyone is watching you.”

Reggie tells the story about how in college he was put in the position of leading calisthenics for the football team. He didn’t know much about leadership at that point, but was about to learn on the fly. 

The first lesson is that everyone is watching you. That’s as true on the football field as it is in the community or a board room. Remembering that helps leaders hold themselves accountable, positively influence those around them and make a lasting impression they can be proud of. 

Parallels between sports and business

“The similarity between teams in sports and business is how you get better.”

To win games, teams in sports will study their opponent, the conditions, the players, the strategies and schemes to prepare mentally for doing battle on any given day. They will also prepare physically by working out, running plays, and doing drills so they are ready for any situation. 

Winning in business is a little harder to measure, but the process for business teams involves understanding the competitive landscape, adjusting your product or offering and working together to be innovative. 

In both of these cases, it is the process of being a team that helps individuals improve. 

Listening to the pain

“Listening is a skillset.”

The ability to listen is one of the most critical skills of any athlete, leader, community member or human being! Listening validates people and builds relational bridges that are required to accomplish great things for your sports team, community or business. 

To solve meaningful problems, leaders must listen for the pain that others are experiencing. This way you can work toward meaningful solutions that help everybody, even members of rivals city gangs. 


To connect with Reggie, you can find him on Facebook. Reggie’s book, Resilient by Nature: Reflections from a Life of Winning On and Off the Football Field is available on Amazon

This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our faaaaaantastic team:

  • Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas

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