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Lead Like Peyton

I have been watching Peyton Manning play quarterback in the SEC and NFL for more than half of my life. This man has dazzled me with touchdown passes, fourth quarter comebacks, competitive fire and unbelievable poise over the past 20+ years. I have been a fan of his since his days in Tennessee and even felt that he should have won the Heisman Trophy over Charles Woodson of my beloved Michigan Wolverines in 1997. After 18 years in the NFL, two Super Bowl championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, and fourteen Pro Bowls, Peyton decided to officially hang them up earlier this month. As I listened to his press conference and reflected upon his career, I couldn't help but think what leaders can learn from this incredible athlete.

Be Humble Peyton Manning is an absolute superstar and simply one of the best to ever put on a uniform; however, when you listen to him speak, you would have no idea. Peyton is quick to thank those around him including coaches, teammates, his family, and the fans that support him on a weekly basis. There is no question that Peyton Manning is confident of his skills and abilities, but he realizes that the supporting cast is critical to maximum achievement. He has clearly stated that everyone on the team matters and contributes to the success of the collective whole. It is very rare for a player of this caliber to recognize and realize that absolutely everyone within the organization makes a difference. We can learn a lot as leaders from this man.

Tireless Preparation There is simply no one better at game planning than Peyton Manning. This man revolutionized how the game was played at the line of scrimmage before the snap, due to in-depth study of his opponent. It was clear (especially late in his career) that Peyton Manning was not the quickest, nor did he have the strongest arm or tightest spiral on his throws; however, nobody was going to come to the competition knowing more about his opponent or anything else that had to do with the game. There are so many things that are outside of our control including injury, weather, incidents with students and their parents, but when we take time to prepare, we increase the likelihood of our success dramatically. Whether we are getting ready for a professional development session with staff members, reviewing for an important school board meeting, or simply organizing events in our personal calendars to increase efficiency throughout the day, we can all learn from Peyton Manning while investing the time that is needed for excellence.

Strength-Based Leadership It was pretty evident in Super Bowl 50 that Peyton Manning was a completely different player than he was in Super Bowl 41. It looked like he had trouble getting into five and seven step drops throughout the game, but this didn't stop him from having an impact. On paper, it appeared that he was a non-factor by completing only 13 passes for 141 yards and an interception. The truth is that Manning continued to focus on his strengths which included reading defenses, knowing situations, and limiting mistakes while facilitating a ball control offense. There is no question that Manning was surrounded by absolutely fantastic players in Super Bowl 50, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. We can learn a lot from this scenario in leadership positions. We don't have to be the best in every facet of our positions, in fact, there are many things that we will not do very well at all. The key is to focus on our strengths, continue to improve, and surround ourselves with outstanding people who make us better.

Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously We've seen many commercials over the years starring Mr. Manning, whether it involves Nationwide, Papa John's, Saturday Night Live, among other opportunities. The guy has a knack for laughing at himself whether he is dancing, humming various tunes, or signing very poorly. We have serious jobs as educators and the stress can beat you down if you let it. We must take a page out of Peyton's book and laugh at ourselves from time to time to keep our sanity and let those around us know that we are human.

Peyton Manning spent his career making big plays on the field and never ceased to amaze me with his comments after the game and off the field actions. A lot can be learned from The Sheriff and I am extremely grateful that I have been able to watch this man play for more than 20 years. Peyton Manning is so much more than a superstar quarterback and I will always remember the leadership lessons that he has provided to me.

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