Strahan Brings Star Power, Insight to RECon Keynote

The TV personality and Hall of Fame NFL player opened ICSC’s annual convention with perspectives on leadership, persistence and adapting to change.
Michael Strahan (right) talks with Kimco Realty CEO and ICSC chairman Conor Flynn during the opening keynote at RECon.

Michael Strahan has made his mark as a football star, television host and football analyst, and it turns out that he also has plenty to offer a roomful of retail real estate professionals. In an entertaining, insightful opening keynote at RECon on Sunday, Strahan offered lively perspectives on leadership, versatility and navigating rapid change.

During a conversation with Conor Flynn, CEO of Kimco Realty Co. and chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centers, Strahan urged his audience not to shortchange their own potential or embark on new endeavor. “The biggest thing is getting out of your own way,” he said. “You have more value in your attitude than you do in your bank account.”

By way of example, Strahan related the improbable story of his own journey to success, which began with his boyhood determination to get in shape in order to avoid teasing for being overweight. The work ethic he developed in the process led to high school stardom, a scholarship to Texas Southern University and 15 years of National Football League stardom. Strahan’s takeaway from the experience: “You can work your way into being the best (at something) if you work at it.”

Overcoming Limits

A question from Flynn about preparing for life after pro football prompted Strahan to share observations about discussion of versatility and the potential for career reinvention. “There’s no rule that says you can only do one thing,” said Strahan, who has excelled in a variety of high-profile endeavors. “We limit ourselves more than anyone else limits us,” he declared. He noted the irony that people who skillfully motivate colleagues are often unable to turn that motivational ability on themselves. “Encourage yourself the way you encourage everyone else,” he advised.

In a world of rapid transformation, Strahan emphasized the importance of staying open to new ideas, reminding the audience that this is no time to get complacent. “If  you haven’t had the foresight to think ahead … you have to start all over again.” One effective strategy is taking advantage of the expertise that colleagues bring to the table, such as technology-savvy younger colleagues. “My kids can do stuff on the phone in five minutes that would take me half an hour,” he noted. When a colleague suggests a new way of doing things, he said, “Don’t discount it because that’s not the way it was done before.”

Amid his observations on motivation and teamwork, the Hall of Famer and former New York Giants stalwart offered glimpses into life as an elite pro football player. He commented on the management styles of  former coaches, the split-second decisions that precede a tackle, and in response to a question from Flynn, which NFL quarterback was his favorite to sack: “All of them,” he quipped.