Inspirational Leadership Lessons From The Gridiron
Yesterday, I saw something remarkable during a professional football game, the likes of which I used to see all the time but haven't seen in awhile. It was a stunning last-minute comeback led by a young, much maligned quarterback, whose skills are thought by experts to be suspect and whose most prominent strength seems to be that elusive and hard-to-quantify "will" to win.
The quarterback in question is young Tim Tebow, and the team he led to victory was my beloved Denver Broncos. I've been a Broncos fan since childhood, so I have a natural and illogical bias toward the franchise. But I think inspirational leaders (and those who aspire to be), even if they are not Tebow fans or Broncos fans, can take some lessons from yesterday's game... lessons in the power of good living, hard work, and a deep belief in yourself, your teammates, and your Maker.
If you didn't see or hear about the game, the high points are these: Tebow was making his first start of the season yesterday, as the woeful Broncos decided to take a chance on him following several lackluster performances by his predecessor. For the first 56 minutes of Sunday's game, Tebow gave his critics (who are legion) plenty of grist for their mills: he missed wide-open receivers, fumbled the ball, and made some bad choices (and bad throws). But then, with the Broncos "hopelessly" down and out and less than four minutes left in the game, Tebow and the Broncos offense caught fire. They scored fifteen unanswered points, forced the game into overtime, and then won it on a long field goal by a kicker who'd already missed two shorter attempts earlier in the game.
The most famous quarterback in Broncos history, John Elway (he's now a front-office executive with the club) used to do that. He used to play awful games, especially during his first two or three seasons. He used to make dreadful throws, bad decisions, and enough lost-yardage boo-boos to make his critics (like Tebow's) wonder why he came so highly touted out of college.
But the other thing Elway used to do a lot of - and he became famous for it - was to bring the team back from "hopeless" deficits, late in the game. He holds the record for the greatest number of these "miraculous" fourth-quarter (and overtime) comeback wins. He was fun to watch! And while his quarterback stats aren't phenomenal, he's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because he made all those comebacks. And because he led his team to five Super Bowl games (an average of one every third year of his career), won two of them, and was the league's (and the Super Bowl's) Most Valuable Player. There are a lot of NFL guys who can't make half those claims of success.
At some point, the sports pundits will have to do with Tim Tebow what they eventually had to do with John Elway: stop talking about what he "can" and "can't" do, and start talking about what he DID do.
Here's the big lesson for leaders: you have a Tim Tebow inside you. That young man does three things well (no, not pass, run, and read defenses... he's still learning those skills). First, Tebow lives right. He's morally strong; if my daughter ever dated a sports hero, I'd hope it was a guy like Tebow. He happens to be a devout, open Christian, but you can be a good-living leader with any religious faith. Second, he works his butt off. He doesn't rest on his laurels or expect to be handed the ball because of "who he is," but because of what he does. Finally, he trusts. He believes in God, to be sure, but he also believes in himself, and in his teammates. He's a real leader. His teammates never give up, even when the game is "hopeless," because Tim never gives up. He's like a spark plug for the Denver Broncos... like John Elway before him.
So, can your inner Timmy come out to play? Many of my clients aspire to become more inspirational as leaders, whether they own a business, work in an office or shop, or simply make a living through investing. They could all take a tip from Tim: when you live right, work hard, and believe in yourself and your team, good things happen. Like Tebow, and like Elway, you won't win 'em all. But you'll do a darn sight better than your critics expect you to do. And so will those around you, who can't help but play their best game in the company of your leadership and inspiration.