7 Winning Leadership Ideas from the Peyton Manning Playbook

Jul 20, 2015

While several NFL players have been in the news for rule-breaking and bad behavior, another gave a motivating and humorous keynote at a recent industry conference.

peyton manning IASA keynoteWhat comes to mind when you think of Peyton Manning? NFL quarterback? The Denver Broncos? Indianapolis Colts? 2006 Superbowl Champion?

There’s no doubt that Peyton Manning is a class act football player. Whether you are a football fan or not, anyone can appreciate Manning’s many achievements on the field. His football career accomplishments range from overcoming four neck surgeries to make his second Superbowl appearance; to obtaining the NFL record for the most career touchdown passes.

Off of the field Manning has also proven to be a fierce leader. When his professional football career began, Manning started the Peyback Foundation to help disadvantaged kids. And in 2012, Manning purchased 21 Papa John’s Pizza franchises.

Manning’s recent keynote was inspirational to say the least. Manning talked about how important it is for all leaders to adjust to less-than-ideal circumstances. Manning also discussed that in order to beat the competition you have to be a game-changer or you will get left in the dust. And that like in a football game, every industry has rules and regulations that you have to follow in order to win the game.

While Peyton said, “I cannot give anyone in this room any type of business advice,” he did list seven pieces of advice for leaders, backing each with a tale from his career.

7 Winning Leadership Ideas from the Peyton Manning Playbook:

  1. The best advice can fall flat when reality-tested. When Manning was a freshman at University of Tennessee, he was the third-string quarterback. His father, legendary quarterback Archie Manning, told him: “If you ever get into the huddle with the starters…you be the leader and you take control.” Manning found himself in the huddle on the road against UCLA in 1994. Recalling Archie’s advice, Manning said to his teammates: “I know I’m a freshman, but I can take us down the field.” The left tackle promptly said: “Hey freshman, shut the [eff] up and call the [effing] play.” “And I said, ‘Yessir,'” recalled Manning.
    1. For leaders: even the best intended advice could backfire. Leaders learn as they go and learn from their mistakes.
  2. Thrive on discomfort. Manning practices what he calls awkward throws. Coaches push a blocking dummy into his feet or simply back into him with their bodies to simulate a pass rush.
    1. For leaders: escape your comfort zone and push your limits. Testing your expertise on something new can produce groundbreaking results.
  3. Devote yourself to meticulous preparation. At the start of the 2012 season, Manning was returning to the NFL after a year off necessitated by four neck surgeries. He had to find keep practicing to find new ways to do the old job: score points. It was the quarterback equivalent of finding a new way to deliver what a customer wants. Manning could no longer compete on the basis of arm strength the way he did when he was young. So he became more efficient.
    1. For leaders: Prepare for even the smallest details. Look for an edge. And when the old routine isn’t yielding the same results, keep practicing until you arrive to a new solution to get the desired outcome.
  4. Invest in a coach. David Cutcliffe, Manning’s former position coach at Tennessee, still trains with him. Manning likes working with him because Cutcliffe doesn’t hesitate to yell at Manning for his mistakes. “I’m mad at him, but I know it makes me better,” Manning said.
    1. For leaders: find someone who will tell you things straight up, no matter how much you’ve accomplished. Find someone whose authority you’ll respect. “Once someone stops learning to be coached, taught, or mentored, they’re in big trouble,” said Manning. Have someone to point out what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Cultivate trust. The quarterback position is full of stats measuring a player’s ability to throw and run. Not all of them correspond to team success. Manning said he emphasized the individual goals of completion percentage and touchdown passes because they “help our team win.”
    1. For leaders: a leader is trusted for good outcomes. Don’t set goals for yourself that, if achieved, will lead to only personal gains. Help build individual resumes on your team and you will win together.
  6. Become a Master Observer. Stop and look at things no one else has bothered to look at or things normally taken for granted. In football terms, this means Manning equipped himself to identify the play irregularities that could lead to a competitive advantage.
    1. For leaders: Given your experiences and knowledge, what can you see that others, including your competitors, cannot? When an opportunity is presented, don’t be sided by change, embrace it.
  7. Understand the sustained power and influence flowing from your relationships with others. Manning was intent on pointing out that his success did not come from nothing. People helped him every step of the way, and his biggest joy was working with and helping others, in and out of football.
    1. For leaders:“You can have the swagger of a winner,” he said, “but never be convinced that your greatest accomplishments are made alone.”

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