Last month, I had the privilege of meeting with Peyton Manning and then hearing him speak at the Entrata Summit, a multifamily conference in Park City. Five-time MVP and the only quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. A two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and one of America’s favorite athletes was friendly, polite and engaging.
After our brief meeting he spoke to our group for an hour, sharing stories about his life and football career. His perspective as a leader on the football field can help us as we consider what it takes to be successful teams and leaders in business today.
Leadership is a People Activity
Peyton related football and business – “It is really still about people,” he said. “Success in football and business both boil down to people. No one can accomplish success alone, all must work together, and strong leadership is required.”
“Strong leaders have the audacity to believe in goals that seem beyond your reach. When strong leaders lead and followers choose to follow, results exceed expectations.”
“When teams work in unison, toward the same goal, each playing his specific role at the highest level possible, the results often defy the odds.”
He described the need to communicate more clearly, more efficiently and more often, sharing communication with key people. He said “a leader needs to take inventory – to identify real strengths of the team, to focus on self (both strengths and weaknesses), and to have honest communication with everyone including yourself.”
He was emotional as he shared his Super Bowl 50 experience and the excitement afterwards as they passed around the Lombardi trophy. He declared “there is something magical about each member of the team putting their imprint on the trophy representing their shared accomplishment.”
The Right to Leadership is Earned
Peyton Manning’s football debut was hardly indicative of the heroics to which we would become accustomed. A high school star, Peyton was a highly-recruited quarterback but started his freshman season third on the depth chart at the University of Tennessee.
In the 1994 season-opener against UCLA, senior quarterback Jerry Colquitt was injured on the seventh play of the game. At some point in the first half, third-stringer Manning was sent into the huddle of his first college game.
The anxious rookie began delivering a rah-rah pep talk until one of his offensive lineman interrupted, saying, in effect:“Shut up and call the freaking play.”
He did. Three humble handoffs later and it was back to the bench for Manning. He eventually got another opportunity and became the team’s starting quarterback later in his first season, and the rest is history.