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Five Leadership Lessons From Super Bowl 50

Television’s biggest sporting event, with 110 million viewers around the world, once again delivered more than expensive commercials, trophy ceremonies, and winning speeches. Sunday’s contest on the gridiron was another textbook case in leadership that business owners can put to good use as they go up against stiff competition on a daily basis.

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Being the older competitor can work to your advantage.

We live in a time when start-ups and young guns tend to think they rule the playing field (in sports and in business). But as one future Hall of Fame quarterback showed, that’s not always the case. In fact, the biggest lesson from quarterback Peyton Manning will be how to silence the critics, stay focused, do your best with what you have to offer and win with class. Let this be a lesson that newer and younger doesn’t always mean better. The same can be true in business. Don’t be so easily seduced by the new kids on the block. There can be real value to being the one who has already been around the block a few times. Let that wisdom shine, and you may be at the top of podium despite the naysayers.

Be ready to go the distance.

Just because you’re ahead in the game, doesn’t mean you can walk away and declare victory. Despite trailing the entire game, at one point in the fourth quarter the Carolina Panthers cut Denver’s lead to 10 to 16 and were just one touchdown away from taking the lead. But the Broncos didn’t give them that chance. They played until the clock ran out. And only then, did they kick back and celebrate. Leaders in business have to think the same way. If you are in a leadership position, you can be sure there is always a competitor who is hungry to take you down. Working to get ahead is just half the job; you often have to work even harder to keep the lead. As in football, businesses that relax once they get on top, very often find that the lead has disappeared before they can react.

Behind every great team, you find a great leader.

Gary Kubiak made NFL history when he became the first person to ever win the Super Bowl as a head coach for the same team he used to play for. And it was Kubiak’s decision to return C. J. Anderson to the starting backfield, a spot he hadn’t been in since the sixth week of the season. The move led them to victory as Anderson carried the ball 23 times for 90 yards and a touchdown, the last one with just minutes left in the game that extended the Broncos lead to 22-10. At halftime of a game late in the season, he also made the decision to move Peyton Manning back into the starting quarterback position despite his declining physical skills in order to take advantage of his experience for the critical playoff run. As the leader of a business, it’s key to know the strengths of your team and position them for success.

Leaders know there will be setbacks and are prepared to handle them.

Social media blew up after quarterback Cam Newton stormed out of the post-game press conference. His one-word answers to reporters after losing the big game laid the groundwork for people to label him young and immature. But how about the interview with Panthers Coach Ron Rivera outside the locker room? It’s a monumental undertaking to publicly pat the back of a competitor, recognize someone else’s strengths and your weaknesses, and congratulate the winning team. In the privacy of the locker room, however, he reminded his team that only two years earlier the Broncos had lost to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl but they had responded to that defeat by returning to the Super Bowl and winning it. Providing inspiration to a team that has suffered a setback is the sign of a true leader.

Know what you accomplished and be proud of it.

Just like the celebratory parade for the Denver Broncos in The Mile-High City, Bronco fans can applaud the WHOLE TEAM for this achievement. A victory for the Denver Broncos means a victory for players, cheerleaders, mascots, drumline, the entire coaching staff, families and more. Collectively, these people all came together to get the big win. People may not acknowledge the effort until you cross the finish line, but it’s a group effort to get there. And it’s important to celebrate everyone’s contributions. Business leaders can do well to emulate that example. Parades should not just be for the boss. Real leaders share the spotlight with everyone who makes it happen.

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