Meaningful Conversations: A Series on Leadership with Mohammed Massaquoi

This month, Jackson Spalding welcomed our teams and clients into our Atlanta office for the kickoff of the new community-driven leadership series, Meaningful Conversations: A Series on Leadership. JS co-founder Glen Jackson spoke with friend and football star Mohammed Massaquoi on various topics including fear, identity, goal setting and (of course!) leadership. In this hour, we learned from Mohammad’s personal experiences playing both UGA and NFL football and how a career-ending injury opened endless opportunities for self-actualization and communal impact.

We got to hear of Mo’s amazing story: His parents moved to the U.S. from Liberia, where the country was engulfed in a civil war. As a first generation American, Mo grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he developed a love for football at 7 years old. In college, he played for the University of Georgia’s football team as a wide receiver from 2004-2008, under head coach Mark Richt. Following graduation, Mo was a second-round draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. During his career as a wide receiver, Mo played for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.

In spring of 2017, Mo suffered from an ATV accident, losing 4 fingers on his left hand. While ongoing 8+ surgeries on his hand, Mo was faced with questioning his identity and confronting his fears. Just a year later, Mo founded Vessol, a business consulting firm in Atlanta. Mo is a firm believer that people drive performance, so Vessol’s mission is to “foster a high-performing and growth-minded culture at work.” Through training and consulting, Vessol develops and improves a client’s team culture, DEI and teamwork. Mo and his team have worked with clients including Truist, The Home Depot, Microsoft, State Farm, Cox Automotive, Biogen and Randstad.
Here are our main takeaways from the conversation, on being an inspirational and effective leader.

Team Building: How do we inspire others?

  • The best leaders set the conditions to allow everyone to be their best and to perform in places people care about.
  • Teams succeed best when they are made up of individuals with complementary yet different skills and tasks.
  • Pursue excellence, not only for oneself, but to help others. Do well to put back into the world.
  • We have more in common than we think, but if we only focus on our differences, we limit our experiences, knowledge, potential relationships/friendships, and growth.

Identity: Who we are matters

  • Other people define you, and in a way, you take that label. Once you take ownership of how you want to function in the world, then you move through the world more freely.
  • Each part of us has a meaning, and it defines us and gives us unique perspectives. Even the stuff we find ugly, hopefully we can use that to transform ourselves and remember that aspect of ourselves exists.
  • We are all multifaceted beings. There is more than one way to explore your identity and passions.

Goal Setting: To accomplish anything in life, we must set goals

  • Life is about references points. If you see it – that point, that goal – you can believe it. You can have a vision for it.
    Position yourself where you can have a better reference point, so you can see the thing that you want to become.
    The biggest barrier to not achieving one’s goals is the inability to see yourself in that position.

Intentional Living: Know where you are going and live in the now

  • Life is short. Be mindful, be intentional and be present.
  • If your attention is divided, you will never really accomplish anything meaningful.
  • We were not put on this earth to get through this life by ourselves. Seek and welcome help from others. We are not meant to handle tough times alone.
  • Do not let fear rule your life.
  • Always show and express gratitude.