Leaders proactively set the atmosphere

September 22, 2021

By Jeff Becraft


We had our first session with this year’s students on Tuesday evening.  I had the opportunity to share this principle during the evening.  It is what I call the “Dean Howell” principle.  (There are actually a couple of principles here but they are related.)

I had met Dean at a FCA camp years ago and we wound up rooming together. Dean was teaching and coaching at a middle school at that point. He later took over the football program at A.C. Flora High School and he and a group of coaches at that time totally turned that football program around. They did it by implementing very specific leadership and life principles.

During one particular year, Flora and Airport were tied for first place and they were playing that Friday night. Whoever won would be in first place in the region. I went to the game to see Dean and his team in action.

The game was being played at Airport’s stadium. When I arrived, Flora was already up. But Airport was on the move and they marched down the field and scored a touchdown.

The Airport side was going crazy. You could sense the swing in the momentum in the stadium. Airport was now only four points behind and they were back in the game.

And then I witnessed one of the greatest leadership moments I have ever seen.

As Flora’s defense trotted off the field, someone stood up in the Flora stands and began applauding the Flora defense… the defense that had just been scored on.

This was not a front row leader, this was not a second row leader… this was a third row leader. (“What’s a third row leader?”… that’s another email.)  Following that one single person, other people (including me) stood up and began enthusiastically applauding the defense coming off the field.

What that one leader (and everyone else that then followed) was saying was, “We are not going to let you set the atmosphere of this game. That is our team on the field. And we are going to let them know it and we are going to let everyone in the stadium know it.”

In my opinion, that was the turning point in that game. A.C. Flora went on to control the game from there on out.

At the half, as the teams headed to their respective areas, I overheard Dean say to the team, “Run off the field.  Make a statement.” Life is not just going from point A to point B.  Each step of the way we make a statement.

Leaders proactively set the atmosphere.


Jeff Becraft is the Executive Director for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives.  Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].