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« Timeless Principle #9 – Just How Smart Are You? | Main | Leaders Who Tap into Right Brain Organization »

Feb 5
SuperBowl Provides Lessons in Leadership
The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there” was spoken by the fifteenth U.S. President, James Buchanan 150 years before SuperBowl XXXXl between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears. Still, it seems like truth after watching Tony Dungy and Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning in the big game.

Tony Dungy, the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, quietly and calmly brought his Indianapolis Colts and his wunderkind yet oft maligned quarterback to Miami for the Super Bowl and is proof that leadership is not a simple recipe but a complex formula that is usually only proven in the laboratory of adversity.

Dungy has noted that great leaders are neither born nor made. He believes that great leaders are a mixture of born talent and work. It takes a combination of hard work, experience and natural ability.  Like many accomplished leaders, he began watching, listening and learning about leadership at a young age.  In an interview prior to his Super Bowl win, Dungy said,

"My take on leadership is something my high school coach told me when I was a young sophomore quarterback. He said, 'The real good leader is the guy who gets people to follow him but they don't know it. They think they're going where they want to go.' You try to show people the way, encourage them. That's the way to do it rather than driving them and saying, 'Hey I'm going to push you here.' Say, 'I'm going to show you the way, and we're all going to get there together.'"

Dungy has practiced what he preaches. He is a soft-spoken leader. In the NFL world of high-priced egos of players and coaches, Dungy has always taken a kinder, gentler approach.  The Washington Post wrote about Dungy after his Super Bowl win, “decent human beings and truly exceptionally good guys really can finish first.”

"He never raises his voice," CBS broadcaster and former Super Bowl winner Phil Simms said of Dungy, the anti-Bill Parcells. "Most guys do it with fear. His players respect him so much, they fear letting him down."

Dungy leads by respect, rather than fear. Dungy's main goal is to enable and empower his players achieve their potential. He is quick to appreciate and value the contributions of others, particularly other African-American coaches in the league. Again from the Post,

"I have to dedicate this to the guys who came before me," Dungy said after the game. "Jimmy Ray, Sherman Lewis, Lionel Taylor were great coaches in this league who could have done this if they'd been given the opportunity. Lovie Smith and I weren't the best, but we were given the opportunity. I feel so good about representing guys who paved the way for us."

Dungy and MVP Peyton Manning are a match.  Manning is equally the leader on the field that Dungy is on the sideline.  Their respect for one another is genuinely mutual. "Peyton Manning is a tremendous leader," Dungy said. "He prepares, he works, he does everything he can do. If people think he needed to win a Supermanning%20Dungy.jpg Bowl to validate what he's done, the only thing I can say is that this guy is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest who ever played this game."

For Dungy, his greatest leadership trait may have been his ability to enable the greatness of Manning to flourish. Their patience, loyalty and dedication to each other and a unified goal endured previous failures to capitalize on big game opportunities.  When it was over, Dungy and Manning culminated their journey with a hug on the podium during the trophy presentation. The two leaders share a genuinely mutual admiration, and true to their character and leadership style, each seemed more delighted to win it for the other than he was to win it for himself.

Watch post game interviews with Dungy and Manning.

Photo Credit - Donald Miralle, Getty Images 

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