Leadership Lessons from The Super Bowl

A good portion of America turned its collective TV off Sunday night as the Atlanta Falcons appeared to be comfortably up on the New England Patriots in the 51st Super Bowl. But if you counted yourself among them, rather than among the diehards who watched until the end, you missed history in the making in the form of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.  That also means you missed these key takeaways for business we can all learn from the game:

Don’t get complacent. The Falcons took their foot off the gas. They believed all the stats about no Super Bowl ever being won by a team who was down by more than 10. They had the rings on their fingers in their minds’ eyes already.  Heck, their owner came out of the press box ready to celebrate in the third quarter. I wanted it all to be true for them. I wanted them to upset the Goliath and prevent the Patriots’ 5th ring. But their complacency got the better of them. They believed their early success would be enough to carry the day, and it wasn’t. Business success is a long-term play. As leaders, we can’t rest on our laurels and coast, or a competitor will exploit our complacency and rise up to beat us. Stay the course for the entire time you’re in the game… or get out of the game and let someone else take the helm.

Don’t give up. On the other side of the field, the Pats were anything but complacent. They seemed impervious to the news of the ridiculous odds of their comeback. They ignored the naysayers and they did their thing. Mostly, their leader stepped up with laser focus and marched down the field several times to do the seemingly impossible—making up a staggering 25-point deficit as the clock was ticking away. They chipped away at that lead, never believing it was an insurmountable lead and thus they fought their way back into the game. If you’re not a football fan and instead 80s movies are your thing, let me put it this way—they were like Glenn Close in the Fatal Attraction bathtub. The Falcons assumed they were dead and the Patriots rose up and shocked them and us. Do you have that zeal and focus in the face of staggering odds? Tenacity and calm are paramount to a leader’s success. We can’t all throw like Tom Brady, but we can all take a page from his playbook on tenacity and calm.

Diplomacy and talent win the day. Up until this point, we’ve focused on the football, but can we just talk about Lady Gaga’s halftime show for a minute?? I am definitely not gaga for Gaga, but I was amazed and delighted with what she did Sunday evening. First off, she isn’t wearing meat anymore, so that’s a win. Look beyond her crazy get-ups of the past and that is a seriously talented singer. Secondly, the world had expected some brash political statement from her. What it received instead was a message of unity. She made some points about her beliefs and made them subtly through her song choices. The lesson here is two-fold: nothing beats talent. Except maybe talent combined with grace. In the workplace, you can try to dress up mediocre ideas or mediocre performance with flashy presentation, but in the end, it’s the talent that matters. But only if the talent isn’t also a jerk about it. Subtly and interpersonal sensitivity, civility and and finding common ground are making a comeback. Don’t underestimate the effect of these qualities in achieving your business outcomes.

So that’s it. Don’t be complacent. Don’t give up. And let your diplomacy and talent shine through. It sounds easy, but it’s hard work of course. Don’t let that stop you. It didn’t stop Tom Brady or Lady Gaga.

By |2018-03-14T20:41:14+00:00February 7th, 2017|