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Super Bowl XLIX Quarterbacks: Who Has the Leadership Advantage?

Posted by Cristina Filippo on 01/27/2015

In case you all had not heard, it is Super Bowl Week!  For Russell Wilson's Seattle Seahawks to become the first team in a decade to win consecutive Super Bowls, they'll have to beat the most recent group to do it, Tom Brady's New England Patriots.  We thought it would be a lot of fun to bring you a two-part blog on the 2015 Super Bowl.   This week we will highlight the two quarterbacks and next week we will dig deeper into the team aspect of this historic matchup.

The Leaders
Russell Wilson and Tom Brady will square off this Super Bowl Sunday as the two quarterbacks tasked with leading their teams to a championship.  At the Super Bowl, talent is the price of admission, but these two quarterbacks have so many other characteristics that represent the highest levels of exceptional leadership and good management.  Each quarterback is different and brings their own “flair” to the teams they lead.

This list is the Top 5 Leadership Advantages they each bring to the game:

Russell Wilson #3 with The Seattle Seahawks

  1. Be Adaptable in Your Approach.  Wilson is unconventional, agile and adaptable which makes him an exciting and dangerous competitor.  He takes big risks that have huge potential for payoff.  His coach, Pete Carroll, finds this to be the key to his success in each and every game.  “When Russell starts moving, you want to standup because something great is going to happen.”

  2. Have Tenacity when Times are Tough. In a recent playoff game against the Packers, Wilson rebounded after a couple of low performing quarters.  In times of adversity on the field, he is the type of player that you can rely on to not give up.  That’s true leadership.

  3. Be Inspired by Your Family.  Russell himself still leans on inspiration provided by his father who passed away in 2010. "I play with my dad in my heart every game because he really taught me about discipline, preparation and how to be an ultimate competitor."  Wilson would say that he has excelled because of the positive encouragement of his family.

  4. Cultivate Mentors Whose Leadership You Admire.  Early in Wilson's career, Derek Jeter became this quarterback's mentor.  The legendary New York Yankees shortstop mentored Wilson specifically on how to block out negative noise "I loved Derek's competitive nature and how he does things the right way," Wilson said. "I'm really fortunate I've become good friends."

  5. Have a Vision You Believe In.   While a young boy, Wilson imagined he was Steve Young or Warren Moon while firing big-game touchdowns in his backyard with his father.  This vision he created for himself translated into confidence on the field.  "If there's two minutes left in the game, I want the ball in my hands," Wilson said. "I just believe in myself."

Tom Brady #12 with the New England Patriots

  1. Know Whom To Rely On.  Brady leads hundreds of practices to see how his players react to many different situations.  Through these practices he is able to assess player’s strengths and weaknesses. “I think the common thing that we all have is playing for this team and trying to do everything we can to help this team win. That's what we're here for.  I just want to earn their trust and respect. That's what I try to do every day and that's what I expect of them, too.”

  2. Realize When You Have to Be Politically Savvy.  Recent events having to do with “deflate-gate” have raised the questions about the Patriots quarterback.  During a recent press conference, Brady was accused of being elusive in his responses to the press.  Brady has definitely been attempting to keep his team focused on results and not wanting to throw anyone “under the bus”...under certain circumstances being politically savvy may be the best strategy.

  3. Work Well With Other Bosses.  Some people have bosses and quarterbacks have head coaches. Brady's "boss" happens to be Bill Belichick. "Our relationship is based on about 90 percent football, which is right where I want it," says Brady. "What's most important to Coach Belichick is winning football games, and that's what's most important to me. As long as those priorities remain the same, we're always going to get along. I trust him so much in any decision he has to make, and over the years I've gained his trust too.”

  4. Get Comfortable With Being in Control.  Brady feels that if a quarterback's priorities are about the team and it's success, then other guys won't be so hesitant to let him take over.  "There were a lot of things I didn't feel comfortable having my hands in, but with the leadership challenges that I face now, I'm very comfortable with the demands of it," says Brady.  "That definitely has become easier over the years. You gain credibility with the past performance, and that's what you use."

  5. Have an Urgent Desire to Succeed.  By now most football fans are familiar with the Brady story—how he struggled to get playing time in college, how he was overlooked in the NFL draft until the Patriots took him as the 199th pick in the sixth round.  With his strong will to succeed he has used those slights and challenges to turn himself into one of the best quarterbacks in the history of professional football. As Vince Lombardi put it, “In football, you’re going to get knocked down. It’s what you do next that matters.”

Parallels Between Quarterbacks and Executives 
We just highlighted several foundational tenants that each of these successful quarterbacks possess – preparation, having tenacity, being inspired, setting the vision, taking control, working well with others, taking calculated risks, and knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses– these are also consistent with any successful leader in an organization. Executives, much like quarterbacks, have to see the entire field, study the competition, make snap judgments and have a game plan going into the big game.  

Do certain leadership traits play out better than others?  Just as we see with these quarterbacks, there is diversity between leaders.  The methods these quarterbacks use and the team dynamics we’ll see on Sunday will show up very differently.  As leaders, we all refine our skills and prepare for the HUGE moments in our careers in very different ways.  Each one of us plays "the game" leveraging our own strengths and mitigating our weaknesses on the field.  One thing is certain with these two quarterbacks - both are exceptional leaders and they both have the potential to win for very different reasons...just as each of you have the potential to "lay it all on the field" to help your team succeed in their own way!  

Make a Top 5 List of the Leadership Advantages you and each of your team members bring to the game.  Can you be exceptional and win the Superbowl?  Our guess is YES!

Have fun watching the big game this weekend and look for our next blog on teamwork!


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