Have Dolphins solved team's leadership issues?

Leadership has little to do with seniority. It does not require a title or a position of authority.

Leadership isn't how you manage people, or how many people follow you. It doesn't necessarily require rousing speeches that inspire others.

Leadership is about influence. Leaders are individuals who inspire and empower others. They provide knowledge, a strategy and motivation to realize a vision.

The 2013 Miami Dolphins had plenty of people who thought they were leaders last season. Many of them were members of Joe Philbin's leadership council, and very well might get elected to it again by their peers.

However, the influences they had weren't always used properly (cough, Richie Incognito, cough). The examples they set weren't always a positive one (cough, Mike Pouncey, cough).

And when it was time to inspire, or speak up on another's behalf, or for the greater good, too many Dolphins players sat in silence last season.

"I felt like there was always a sense of leadership. Obviously, it's unfortunate what happened," defensive end Cameron Wake said, referring to the bullying scandal that put the Dolphins under national scrutiny, and side-swiped Miami's 8-8 season.

"We're not going to dive too deep into that, but, as a whole, you look around this team [and] there are guys that may be vocal or guys that maybe do it by example," said Wake, a two time Pro Bowler. "We have leaders all over the place."

And that's part of the problem. If you talk to anyone inside the Dolphins' organization they'll likely tell you the Dolphins didn't have a problem last year.

Never mind Incognito being a locker room Neanderthal.

Ignore Jonathan Martin quitting the team during the season, claiming he was being abused by teammates.

And overlook the team collapsing at the end of the season, scoring all of seven points in two critical division games when the playoffs were on the line.

According to the Dolphins those are isolated incidents of trouble, not a reflection on poor leadership.

According to the Dolphins, the 2013 season is in their past. But who on this 2014 team will keep this locker room on the straight and narrow, and who will ensure that the team doesn't flat-line when the pressure builds?

Either returning players who are viewed as leaders — Wake, Pouncey, Brent Grimes, Ryan Tannehill — need to do a better job inspiring and empowering — or some of these newcomers need to step up quickly.

"No matter if you're a new guy or an old guy, you were born to be a leader. It isn't something you pick up along the way. That's something that was engraved in you as a young'n," said new starting free safety Louis Delmas, who was signed this offseason and immediately took on a leadership role in the secondary.

"It might have taken some time for you to realize you have the capability of being a leader, but once you realize that you know that each and every day you step on the field you have to be a leader, mentally and physically."

But is it fair to overlook a leader just because he isn't vocal?

According to former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, his fellow linebacker Zach Thomas was the lead by example type who only gave one speech to the team he can remember.

Jason Taylor was the vocal one giving team speeches, issue challenges, pulling players aside.

From Crowder's perspective, neither Thomas nor Taylor had more clout than the other inside the locker room. Their styles were different, but none more effective than the other, and they are each viewed as not just great players in Dolphins history, but great leaders.

This summer the Dolphins have put a lot of effort, energy and attention into encouraging players to become better leaders. Miami brought in motivational speakers who have done presentations on developing leadership traits.

Philbin said the team even devoted some of the OTA instructional sessions to leadership training.

"It was an opportunity for better communication," Philbin said. "Players to players, players to the coaches. Some guys got some things off their chest, coaches too.

"I think it has helped us move in a positive direction."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad