Leadership Lessons from 2 Super Bowl Quarterbacks

Russell WilsonRussell Wilson, the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks has had a pretty good first two years in the National Football League. Last year, as a rookie and despite being just a third round draft pick, Wilson surprised everyone and won the starting quarterback job for the Seahawks. This season, just his second in the league, Wilson led Seattle to a 13-3 record and will quarterback his team in the Super Bowl in February.

Immediately after winning the NFC Championship game and earning a trip to the Super Bowl, Russell Wilson sought out someone who knows a thing or two about Super Bowls, Terry Bradshaw. Terry Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl victories. Coincidentally, he was working as a broadcaster for Fox Sports the night the Seahawks won the NFC championship game. So Wilson found Bradshaw and asked him this question, “What do we need to do to win it, that’s different? What makes you win it?” Bradshaw responded, “You’ve got to be really cool. Don’t let the moment catch up with you. You’ve got to play the game down. If you build it up, it’s so important you’ll screw it up and you won’t play well. It’s not just another game, believe me, but you can make it one, just be cool.” To which Wilson replied, “Yes, sir.”

There are some great leadership lessons in this brief dialog between two Super Bowl quarterbacks.
1) As leaders, we must practice continuous learning and we must encourage our team members to do the same. Wilson had an incredible year; he’s going to the Super Bowl. He has proven he is a highly competent quarterback. But he still sought out someone who he considered an expert. He was seeking knowledge and wisdom from someone who had more experience than he did. Learning organizations continuously seek more knowledge and are constantly looking for ways to get better.
2) No matter how good we get, it’s important to stay humble. Wilson’s seeking out Bradshaw and asking his advice was a very humble act. This act was Wilson saying, “I don’t know everything and I need help.” As the leader of your organization, how many times have you said this? Or do you feel like you should know everything because, after all, you are the leader. It’s not your job to know everything. The strongest leaders can say, “I don’t know. I need help.”
3) Respect is an important value for us as leaders and for our organizations. I love how Wilson responded with “Yes, sir.” It emphasizes the respect he has for Bradshaw, someone who is older and more accomplished than Wilson. We should respect each other and also respect our history and those who have come before us to give us the opportunity to lead.
4) Our organizations may not compete in Super Bowls, but we face big moments and times of crisis. In these big moments, which can be full of the same intensity and anxiety of a Super Bowl, our job as leaders is to be cool. We must stay poised and composed. If our team members see us sweat, it will heighten their nervousness. Bradshaw’s advice to be cool, applies to more than just Super Bowls.

Thanks Russell Wilson and Terry Bradshaw, two effective leaders of Super Bowl teams, for these valuable lessons.
And thank you for reading,
Jim

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
Blog – http://www.jvearle.wordpress.com
Facebook – JVEarleConsulting
Book – 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football, http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-62510-731-2

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