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Student Life
Chapel Talks

You Don’t Need a Title to Lead

By Cornelius Green
In a recent chapel celebrating Black history, Coach Cornelius Green shared this Big Ten Network feature and talked about his journey to Ohio State University as the Buckeye's first Black quarterback.

It is indeed an honor for me to stand here and make a humble attempt to dispense some pearls of wisdom. Before I begin my formal remarks, I would like to express my warm gratitude to Rev. Chadwick for getting us together today.

As you know, my name is Cornelius Green, and I grew up and am now a resident of Washington, D.C. That is where I got my first exposure to sports, and it led me on an amazing journey to The Ohio State University.

You see, sports have always been an integral part of my life. Back a long time ago, when I was ten years old, August 28, 1963, changed my life. I lived a stone’s throw away from the Washington Monument. I saw thousands of people descending on my city. I followed them that day, and I had an opportunity to see and hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech. It changed my life.

I was always a non-violent person by nature, but I started to think about my actions before I proceeded to act out what my friends thought and did. I went on to participate in all sports. I attended Dunbar High School, and that’s where I was allowed to blossom and show my talent. I won nine letters—three each in baseball, basketball, and football. I was also team captain for two years in a row in all the sports I just mentioned. I had over 100 football scholarships, 40 basketball scholarships, I batted over 500 and 30 and 2 in pitching, and was a three-sport All-American.

Choosing a college was a very hard for me because I had so many schools to choose from, as well as a huge baseball contract to consider. But this one visit I made to Columbus, Ohio, I had a chance to meet Coach Hayes. I made my choice and decided that Ohio State would be my school of choice.

Now what did Coach Hayes say and do to convince me to pick Ohio State? First of all, he looked at me, and he thought my neck was too small, and he said to me, “I promise you this: If you are good enough to start, you will, and if you are not, you won’t.” Well, all the other schools told me I would start for them my first year. My other thought was: “Would Ohio State change my position?”

There had never been a Black quarterback at Ohio State University before. My first year, I received several letters and calls from the Ku Klux Klan. I was so nervous my first year, I developed an ulcer. Coach Hayes said to me, “It’s going to be tough for you, but you’re just going to have to hang in there.” This lesson in perseverance would be one of the many lessons I would learn from Coach Hayes. He saw me as a leader for the team, and he wanted me to be successful on and off the field.

You don’t need a title to be a leader. There are so many definitions of leadership. The focus on the other manifestations of leadership—the title, the position of the organization, or the corner office—is nice. I believe the more telling characteristics of a true leader is their power with people as opposed to their positional power they may enjoy over people. Leadership can be demonstrated through our everyday actions, and the way we influence the lives of those around us. Coach Hayes was big on paying it forward, so we would often volunteer as a team at the children’s hospital in Columbus.

Therefore, a true leader is someone who designs a Cathedral and then shares his or her visions that inspires others to build it. In truth, the accomplishments of leaders are never personal, rather individuals lead when they serve. It was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”

Leadership inspires others to do great things, and you inspire it by your willingness to work hard. I believe that leaders cannot ask anyone to do anything that they are not willing to do. Leaders lead by integrity. People can see it, and if there isn’t any integrity, they are not going to follow. And as you know, there can be no leaders without followers. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses when taking on leadership roles and responsibilities allows you to connect in an effective way with those who follow.
Located in Washington D.C.,  St. Albans School is a private, all boys day and boarding school. For more than a century, St. Albans has offered a distinctive educational experience for young men in grades 4 through 12. While our students reach exceptional academic goals and exhibit first-rate athletic and artistic achievements, as an Episcopal school we place equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.