Did you watch the NFL Divisional Championship games on Sunday? Two very different games, right?

The Denver Broncos jumped ahead early, only to see the New England Patriots fight their way back with a chance to tie with just twelve seconds to go. After a failed two point conversion attempt by the Patriots, the Broncos held on to win the AFC championship and a spot in the Super Bowl.

Over in the NFC, the Carolina Panthers jumped out to score early and often against the Arizona Cardinals. As the game went on, it was clear that the Cardinals were having an off day and the Panthers were hitting on all cylinders. They easily won by more than thirty points and are also headed to the Super Bowl.

I couldn’t help but be struck by the differences in the two winning teams’ starting quarterbacks, both strong leaders on the field of play.

Peyton Manning is 39 years old and has been in the NFL since 1998. He has one Super Bowl championship, four AFC championships, fourteen Pro Bowl appearances, and numerous other awards and accolades. Manning’s overall skill, preparation, and execution are second to none in today’s game; well, maybe to Tom Brady, depending on your point of view! When I heard Peyton speak at Leadercast last year, it was clear that he is very serious about the game – and the business – of football. His approach to leadership is the same; he was almost somber when talking about the challenges and importance of quarterbacking a group of talented men to be a successful team.

Cam Newton, on the other hand, is 26 years old. He was drafted in 2011 and this season is his first NFC championship. He has earned a handful of awards and a few NFL records already in his short tenure. Watching Cam play, it is easy to see that he is having fun and his teammates enjoy playing with him. He has a charismatic smile; he grinned broadly even as he rolled around after a tough hit in Sunday’s game. Newton literally dances his way through games. His fun-loving approach (some might call it showboating antics) to the game annoys many, but it definitely works for his team.

Would Peyton’s style work with the Panthers? Would Cam’s style work with the Broncos? Maybe, maybe not. The important thing is that their methods and personal style work for their team and their coaches.

There is no one-size-fits-all leadership style. Leadership – the verb – is fluid action. Different followers and different situations may require a different approach. The best leaders have a strong sense of self and a strong sense of what their team needs to be successful. Then, they authentically deliver accordingly.

Who will win the Super Bowl? I have no idea. I do know that it should be an entertaining game between two talented teams led by two strong quarterbacks. If you watch the game, be on the alert for signs of leadership…and, leadership differences.


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