The Super Bowl post-game actions and comments of Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, quarterbacks of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers respectively, reminded me of how important it is for leaders to remember they are always under the microscope. It doesn’t matter if the occasion is the Super Bowl and you’re being watched by over 100 million people, or if it’s a staff meeting and you’re surrounded by a half-dozen team members, your every move is being watched…and remembered…by those around you.
Two specific incidents stood out to me from yesterday’s contest. The first was Peyton Manning’s post-game comments. Fresh off the thrill of winning his second Super Bowl championship and likely playing in his last professional football game, Manning graciously shared the credit for the victory with his teammates. This past season was Manning’s worst from a personal performance perspective, yet he put the needs of the team ahead of his own and the result was magic. Relying on the team’s defense and playing within himself, Manning helped the Broncos win the title. A great example of the power of teamwork.
But Manning isn’t perfect, and like all leaders, sometimes we say or do stupid things. Twice he stated he was going to “drink a lot of beer” after the game and gave Budweiser two unpaid, ringing endorsements (worth over $3 million in free advertising according to experts). For a league so concerned with its public image, and for a guy who has been a class act for most of his career, his comments were crass, careless and thoughtless.
The second example came from Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton. His mandatory obligation for a three minute post-game interview was a display of petulant, sulking behavior. Obviously upset over his most crushing loss as a football player, Newton fumbled the opportunity to show how much he has matured as a leader. Newton has rarely experienced such failure as a football player, having won a junior college national championship, the national college football championship with Auburn, winning the Heisman trophy, and being named the NFL MVP this season. Newton displayed significant growth as a leader this past season but a leader’s true character is measured in how he handles defeat, not victory. This will likely be a blip on the radar of Newton’s evolution as a leader, but it was a notable missed opportunity to raise his leadership brand to a higher level.
Remember, leaders, we are always on stage. The light is always shining on us and people are watching to see how we handle failure as well as success. Our words and actions carry great weight with those around us and we need to be responsible and thoughtful in the way we carry ourselves.