Leadership is more important than ever, but what does it mean? At a recent corporate event, legendary quarterback Peyton Manning shared his insights from the worlds of sports and business.
Asked to define what it means to be a leader, Peyton said, “If you boil it down, it’s the ability to influence others. You have to continuously earn the mantle of leadership.” Such power isn’t automatically conferred based on a title or position such as quarterback or corporate vice president. What matters is what the person in the position does with it. A quarterback needs to earn his position with each play, at every game, all season. And the business VP needs to earn it with each meeting, every business day, all fiscal year. That means setting an example, being accountable and bouncing back from mistakes.
Here are 7 key takeaways to consider:
What is leadership?
Teamwork is everything
Leaders are often seen as a face of the organization, whether they are the president of a company or quarterback of a football franchise. But true leaders know they are only as strong as their team. Peyton didn’t win his two Super Bowl rings by being the only man on the field.
“Whether you are a player losing several games in a row or a business person having a bad quarter, it’s important for the team to stick together.” Peyton said. “Anytime you go through tough times you can’t go through it alone.” As a leader it’s important to be empathetic and take the effort to understand the concerns and challenges of colleagues in your organization.
Transform to perform
From high school and college teams to the NFL Colts and Broncos, Peyton has played with different players and coaches with varying styles and approaches. In both football and business, Peyton said he’s seen people make the mistake of being stubborn and trying to do the same things with a new team or boss. “You have to be flexible and adapt to a new culture,” Peyton says. “Now more than ever leaders need to get out of their comfort zone and embrace change or be left behind.” Good advice not only for the NFL—which has been grappling with issues relating to race and domestic violence—but for leaders in any organization where the temptation to continue to do things the same way is strong.
Don’t forget the fundamentals
Peyton shared how after 18 seasons in the NFL he learned that he couldn’t always outrun or outplay opponents or throw as fast or as hard. So instead, he relied on the basics in his toolbox. For example, he could focus on being more accurate in short throws and dominate that approach. “Don’t ever get away from the fundamentals,” Peyton said. “In football it is key to practice and rely on the basics.” The same holds true in business, it’s key to know the numbers and the core functions from sales and marketing to accounting. And as a leader the fundamentals include listening and opening avenues for dialogue.
Dealing with pressure
With 50,000 pairs of eyes on him in an average stadium, no one knows pressure like an NFL quarterback. But there’s a difference between “pressure” and being “nervous.” Here’s how Peyton characterizes it: “Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing. Pressure means you haven’t prepared. But when you feel nervous it means you care about the outcome.” Peyton says the way to alleviate pressure is to over-prepare and he does this by reviewing plays, understanding his rivals and continuously practicing. Out-prepare for your competition and you’ll find the result is reduced pressure as well.
Always be learning
Peyton talked about the importance of being a continuous student in life and fostering a culture of learning in their organizations. One of the people Peyton admires is legendary NFL coach Tony Dungy. Why? “I respect Tony because he never raised his voice, never used course language to get his point across, and always treated everyone with respect,” Peyton said. No matter how successful, every leader needs someone to admire and learn from. To stay on your game in sports, business and life, you need to keep being coached, and keep being mentored.
Lead by serving
No one makes it to the top on their own, every leader had someone along the way to help lift them up. So leaders have an obligation to give back. Peyton does this through his foundation working with at-risk kids. Perhaps your organization enables employees to use their talents to help their communities. “Find something you are passionate about and give your time, money and influence,” Peyton says. “It can make a big difference.”