Three Leadership Lessons from Super Bowl LIII

“We’re all underdogs. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t come out on top.” — Joe Namath

Photo by Mitch Rosen on Unsplash

The two highest scoring offenses of the year were going to be in a shootout. Youth vs. Age was the storyline. A veteran coach and an old quarterback would take on this year’s dynamic powerhouse, led by the youngest coach ever in a Super Bowl and his skilled young star with the golden arm.

Magic Johnson’s intro on The Super Bowl Today, one hour before game time, suggested that since L.A. won a championship in basketball, followed by the World Championship in baseball, it seems sensible to believe this young L.A. team will make it a hat trick.

Magic’s tightly written narrative sounded reasonable, but they would have to play the game first. Could Los Angeles steal that Vince Lombardi trophy away from this team that still wanted it very badly.

Here are three lessons I took away from Super Bowl LIII.

Lesson One

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Because both the New England Patriots and the L.A. Rams had excelled at putting up points on the board, all of the talking heads predicted a high scoring game. To everyone’s surprise, it looked like it might end up being the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history. Heading into the fourth quarter it was still only 3 to 3.

Furthermore, because historically every Patriot Super Bowl game was decided by 8 points or less, no one predicted a 10 point margin of victory by game’s end.

Lesson Two

Don’t Micromanage.

Here’s why Robert Kraft deserves this sixth Vince Lombardi trophy under Bill Belichick. One of Belichick’s first decisions when placed in the saddle was to choose a young, relatively untested Tom Brady and bench the popular Drew Bledsoe, a player whom the owner had been fond of and who had recently signed a 10-year 110 million dollar contract.

Bledsoe was not only popular with the fans, he had been well liked by the Kraft family that owned the team. Belichick placed his bet on a different pony, and Mr. Kraft didn’t meddle with this. Kudos to Mr. Kraft.

Lesson Three

Build a Stage Five Team

A few years ago I was introduced to the concept of tribes as a way of understanding work cultures. Stage One is the lowest level, characterized by the feeling that life sucks. Stage Five is the pinnacle, a rare culture that requires a rare level of commitment by leadership. Being a part of this kind of team is exhilarating. You rock and you know your on a team that rocks, the emphasis being on Team.

In the ceremony after the game you may have noticed that when the reporters praised Bill Belichick for the Patriots’ achievement, he immediately deflected it. “It was the team. Those were the guys who were out on the field and did it.”

Leaders like Phil Jackson, Coach K (Duke) and Bill Belichick all preach from the same text book. It is teams that win championships.

Phil Jackson turned the Chicago Bulls into an unstoppable force only after he opened Michael Jordan’s eyes to the truth that he was on a team. It was about the Bulls, not Michael Jordan. This actually liberated Michael and as a team they won four championships in a row.

Yes, reporters swarmed over Tom Brady after the game, but Brady never takes credit for the Pats success. He, too, knows it takes a team and deflects others’ praise to the others who contribute 110% on every play.

When Bill Belichick was interview by Phil Simms and Bill Cowher before the game, they asked BB, “What keeps you motivated?”

Belichick replied, “Team building, working with young players who don’t know anything to working with experienced players. We shield out the social media and distractions. We’re here for one reason, to play the game. You see what your team is doing well and build on that.”

Last night the New England Patriots once again affirmed their place in the history books, defeating a strong you team with its future ahead of them. Final score: Patriots 13, Rams 3.

Congrats to each and to all

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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