Monday, November 21, 2011

Eight Leadership Lessons from Tim Tebow

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

Can Tim Tebow make it as an NFL quarterback?

More on that debate at the end of this post...

What is not up for debate are the leadership lessons we can learn from Tim Tebow.

I've met Mr. Tebow several times through my work in Denver, have watched him during games, and in interviews. Through two years and in every venue I've observed him, Tim Tebow has consistently demonstrated eight leadership principles:

1. Belief

One of the greatest gifts a leader brings to their team is belief - belief in the team, belief in the vision, belief that we can do this. Leaders believe when no one else does.

In just a few games as a starting quarterback, it is clear Mr. Tebow believes his team can win. That belief is contagious and brings out the best in everyone else.

2. Results

Effective leaders consistently focus on results. They regularly call their teams back to what they're trying to accomplish and make decisions on the basis of what will accomplish results.

Watching his celebration in the end zone after his most recent touchdown, it is clear that Tim Tebow is a competitor with an intense desire to win.

3. Humility

Effective leaders maintain a realistic sense of self. They know they're not perfect while also appreciating others' value and dignity. Humility is vital for leaders to establish credibility and maintain connection to their team.

In the times I've met Mr. Tebow, the characteristic that stands out most for me is his humility. So far, the incredible hype surrounding his short professional career has not gone to his head. 

I once heard him say that had he grown up in a different country or a different time, his skills as a football player would not be valued and no one would know him from anyone else. His sense of gratitude and having been 'blessed' is very real while he also knows he isn't all the press says he is - good or bad.

4. Perspective

Part of what keeps effective leaders humble is healthy perspective. That is, understanding how their work fits into a bigger picture and knowing what is most important.

After the Broncos' most recent win, Tim Tebow was asked how he maintains a level-head with all the media attention focused on him. He responded: This is just football. I'm able to help build a children's hospital in the Philippines - that's something that really matters. Tebow is a man of faith and it obviously informs every aspect of his life.

5. We Not I

Consistent with humility and a healthy perspective, effective leaders understand they are one person on a larger team and that everything that's accomplished is a product of that team.

Tebow consistently gives credit - not just to his team, but to the coaches. You just don't hear many professional athletes acknowledging the role their coaches play in the team's overall success.

6. Focus on Strengths not Weakness

"You cannot build on a person in a position where his or her strengths can be fully utilized..." -Peter Drucker
"Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” – Marilyn vos Savant

Competence matters. Tim Tebow is an inconsistent throwing quarterback - his passing rating is one of the lowest in the league. However, he is a strong running quarterback and reads defensive schemes well. In a display of strengths-oriented leadership, the Denver coaching staff have modified their offense to make these strengths productive.

7. Focus on What You Can Control

Ultimately, the only thing we have control over is our own behavior and attitude. Effective leaders take responsibility for themselves, their influence, and for their own contribution to results.

In a recent press conference, when asked why he thinks he is such a controversial sports figure, Tebow responded by saying it doesn't matter because it's not something he controls. What he can control, he said, is working hard, practicing with his team, and trying to get better. So that's where he puts his focus.

8. Learn, Work Hard, Get Better

Effective leaders make learning and developing competence a priority. Stagnant leaders lose credibility and cannot, with integrity, ask their teams to grow.

Tebow knows his passing game needs work. During the week he spends many hours with coaches working on his skills. He puts in the time and is learning.

Sustained Results

Back to the question I asked at the beginning: Can Tim Tebow make it as an NFL quarterback?

I am no football expert - what I do know is in six games he has proven he can lead and produce results.

Whether or not he and his team will be able to sustain performance over time will depend on their ability to stay together, remain focused on results, react to a changing environment, learn from their mistakes and successes, and grow over time.

And that's true for any team.

Read More:

15 Tips Every New Leader Needs
Avoiding the Waterfall
4 Key Practices for Every Organizational Leader
Where are Your Eyes?
Do You Commit These 5 Management Mistakes?

Take care,

David M. Dye

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Twitter: @davidmdye
David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.

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At November 21, 2011 at 2:59 PM , Anonymous Deacon Bradley said...

LOVE this post David! Tebow is such a great leader and an athlete I really admire. Very cool use of him to illustrate leadership qualities that can help all of us.

My particular favorite is number 8 because it's a direct challenge for me to work on. I try to focus on becoming better each week, but I guess I hadn't equated that to leadership qualities until now. Thanks David!

At November 21, 2011 at 4:19 PM , Blogger David M. Dye said...

@Deacon Bradley

Thanks for your kind words, Deacon. Personal responsibility, learning, and self-improvement are definitely leadership activities when we use them for the benefit of our team.

Take care and thanks for reading,



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