3 Super Bowl 50 Leadership Lessons

Personal Growth Means Learning From Others

super bowl 50

Being a professional and college sports fan allows one to observe leadership at elite levels.  Coaches and players alike are on a world stage.  Great examples of world class leadership and world class examples of poor leadership are all on display for the conscious observer!

Super Bowl 50 was one such sporting event to see splendid on-field leadership skills…and…a very disappointing leadership meltdown.

The two starting quarterbacks for both teams are where the lesson today is centered.

The winning Denver Bronco’s quarterback, future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning showed why he is a consummate professional.  His dealings with the media during the two weeks building up to the big game showed a poised and gracious leader pointing out the great qualities of his competitors.  (Mind you – Cam Newton also did the same!)  He also side-stepped the obvious question if this was his last game!

Peyton Manning

Manning showed the beauty of consulting wise individuals such as his ex-coach, Tony Dungy, about what he should do about his impending decision about retirement was concerned.  He communicated this decision succinctly many times – especially in his interviews after his team won the game.  He was also very gracious in those post-game interviews deflecting praise and keeping the “team perspective” in his accepting victory.

The other side of the field showed a much different story.  The Carolina Panthers starting quarterback, Heisman Trophy Winner, Cam Newton, was shown at times during the game literally falling down on the ground on the sidelines after mishaps by his teammates on the field and making disgruntled faces after some of his teammates turnovers.

This quarterback was known throughout the regular season and playoffs to be a playful, happy-go-lucky guy who was thoroughly having fun playing the game.

Cam Newton


He lost the big game.

They say character shows itself accurate when met with adversity.

The Carolina Panthers regular season was a glorious season only sustaining 1 loss.  Newton was THE model of a young, professional quarterback stepping onto the elite stage.

Then…in the post-game interview, Newton’s true character showed.  (DISCLAIMER:  I know there is talk out there about malfunctions with this post-game interview stuff…but notwithstanding…)

The whole world was the stage – even the whole universe (as the astronauts in the space station were watching the game!).

AND Newton showed his true character, and it wasn’t pretty.

Newton showed up for the post game interview in a hoodie showing his pouty face.  He answered a few questions with one word answers and then abruptly got up and left the interview stage.

THIS in stark contrast to last year’s losing quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.  Wilson was on the brink of winning Super Bowl 49 versus the New England Patriots in a thriller when he threw an interception near the goal line to allow the Patriot’s to win the game in the last seconds.  A truly heart breaking loss.

Wilson sat in the post game interview well dressed and eloquently addressed the questions in a classy manner.  The model of a great leader.


  1.  Have poise and professionalism under ALL circumstances.  When the situation is hot – maintain courteous professionalism.  When you are on the losing end, be gracious and admit your wrongs and underachievement…because…next time YOU are going to be the WINNER!
  2. Praise your competition.  Do not give your competition talking points to motivate them.
  3. Consult wise people before making huge decisions.  Take time to make your decisions when you have the time.  Do not be pressured into making decisions on emotion.

Having said all of this…please know that I like Cam Newton…I really hope that he develops into an elite NFL Quarterback that can carry the torch that has been delivered to him by his esteemed predecessors.

I am excited to see your comments!  Let them fly!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “3 Super Bowl 50 Leadership Lessons

  1. Well said, John! That is exactly as I felt after seeing both these quarterbacks after the game.
    I have tried to walk away from negative comments that I hear when trying to do my job as a Realtor.
    Replying to small minds is such a waste of energy.

  2. I like how you brought up Russell Wilson’s leadership skills and his poise during SB49 postgame interviews. He indeed had a crushing loss on the last play that arguably wasn’t his fault, but was likely the play callers fault, yet he was a gracious loser. Cam struggled all night despite having some of the best plays on offense attributed to his skill, but his inability to shake his frustration ruined the game for him. He loves playing the game, but it’s easy to love the game when you’re winning, it’s entirely different to love it even when you’re struggling. Payton had a rough game himself as both offenses struggled, but it didn’t change how Payton played the game or his resolve to keep playing to a high standard. Payton’s season is indicative of a true sacrificial leader who stepped out of his starting role while he was struggling and back into his role as starter when the time came. Kudos to Manning.

  3. Honestly, all of these things are ones I need to work on personally. With a competitive nature, it is difficult to celebrate the victories of others. Not to mention the difficulty of not being a sore loser. But these are great reminders that good leaders have a humility that shows and is genuine. And I’m all about consulting those wiser than I. Very relevant post, and I approve of the Super Bowl theme!

  4. I am sure Cam Newton will have many painful thoughts and regrets, following his actions, in the coming months. All natural leaders, and like many of us, will learn and grow from these humiliating and embarrassing displays. I cringe from the times I did not portray a professional or civil attitude after a loss of deal or a silly golf game! However, I learned after far too many experiences, (I hate to admit,) to take all in stride, and be a gracious loser or winner!

  5. How a person handles themselves through a loss shows great character. People around you help define who you are and/or help you to become the person you wish to be. It is hard in this life to let the negative words run down your back, but not responding to the words leads you down the path to leadership.