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6 Leadership Lessons from Peyton Manning

Posted on by Philip Nation in Leadership | Leave a comment

Peyton Manning broke the record for the most touchdown passes by an NFL quarterback. It is a record that will not likely be touched any time soon. He did not only break the current mark held by Brett Farve but added an extra one on for good measure. Peyton Manning, with a few years of playing still ahead of him, has now passed for 510 career touchdown passes. Additionally, he has done so in 56 less games than Brett Favre.

Given the current leaderboard, it seems unlikely that anyone will catch up to him for quite a long time. The current standings for career touchdown passes is:

Though I’m only a casual observer of the NFL, I’ve always enjoyed watching Peyton Manning. He sets a standard for excellence and for life that many leaders can learn from and imitate. Here are
There is much we can already learn from Peyton Manning’s career.

1. Work ethic. There are few players in the NFL that work harder than Peyton Manning. The stories from sports writers are that younger players wear down in practice long before Manning does. He shows up early. He stays late. He puts in the hours necessary to succeed. Oftentimes, the only difference between mediocrity and greatness is one’s work ethic.

2. Understand your opponent. “Omaha” became almost a joke in the 2013 NFL season because Manning called it out so much. It is one of the many signals that Manning gives at the line of scrimmage to indicate a shift in the play because of the formation of the defense. Manning is committed to understanding his opponent and diffusing its abilities to stop his team. Even after Manning broke the touchdown passing record, he went to the bench to look over the defense’s scheme against his team. Know what you are up against and commit yourself to defeating it.

3. Always work for a comeback. With looming neck surgeries, many thought Manning’s career would be over in Indianapolis. Manning disagreed with the doubters. Instead, he worked hard, understood the obstacles, and believed that he had more years of playing the game. He believed not just in an ethereal concept of a comeback. He worked for it. Many people can work hard when there is forward momentum. Great leaders work hard when everything is against you.

4. Enjoy life. Underneath the very serious demeanor, Manning is a guy who likes to have fun. In the locker room, he is known as a prankster. He’s had his moments on Saturday Night Live and in silly commercials with his brother Eli. Even when he broke the passing record, the game of “Keep Away” that the receivers played with the football was apparently really not a prank on Manning. It was Manning’s prank on all of us because they had planned it.

5. Make others better. Many of the members of both the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos are better players because of Manning. He has done it with his example and through his coaching. Having attained such a mastery of strategy and understanding defensive schemes, Manning regularly acts as the coach to other players. And, they readily accept it. There is no doubt that he expects a great deal from his teammates and the cameras periodically catch him excoriating a teammate who messed up an offensive drive. Nevertheless, he regularly brings out the best in those around him.

6. Thank those who help you. When Manning threw the 509th touchdown pass, the following tweet from Gatorade (one of his sponsorship deals) went up:

One sign of a great leader is recognizing the need to help and be helped. Manning is the consummate teammate. He is quick to hand out compliments when it goes well and take the blame when it goes poorly. As a leader, he ensures that the gigantic men blocking for him are well taken care of and the guys who score the touchdowns are celebrated for their skill.

Leading a football team is a unique expression of leadership but so is the area of life where you lead. It is good to, every now and again, learn from someone who has done well, done well for a long time, and has brought others along for the journey. Well done, Peyton.

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