Monday Morning Leadership Lessons from Super Bowl XLVII

“The Super Bowl shows what million-dollar players and coaches are truly made of when the stakes matter most,” says leadership coach Stephen Miles, founder and CEO of The Miles Group.


“The Ravens-49ers game in particular offers business leaders some great lessons – especially since with today’s social media, business is transacted in almost an equally public arena. Companies may not have Beyoncé at their shareholder meetings, but important business decisions – good ones and bad – are more keenly scrutinized by investors, media, and consumers than ever before.”

Five key lessons from Super Bowl XLVII, says Mr. Miles, include:

1.    Use a wide lens for spotting talent: “Always look out for those with potential who may not be directly in front of you – these individuals might wind up being the high-performance ‘franchise quarterbacks’ in your business for years to come. Jim Harbaugh’s decision to trade up nine spots in the draft pick for Colin Kaepernick and then replace starter Alex Smith with Kaepernick midseason (and keeping him on after Smith recovered) was seen as a gamble by many observers. The performance by the 2nd round 36th pick ended up putting the 49ers in the Super Bowl and giving the Ravens a nail-biter until the end of the game.”

2.    Leverage the unexpected: “The Blackout Bowl completely shifted the ground underneath the teams’ feet. Great leaders can deal with the unexpected and turn it into a game-changer, which is exactly how the 49ers shifted the momentum. But the Ravens, in turn, were able to respond to the unexpectedly close game and deliver in the end. Business is about constantly regrouping and responding nimbly. Sometimes setbacks provide the impetus you need to leapfrog competitors and win.”

3.    Read the field: “Having good antennae and being able to see one or two moves ahead allows you to be able to predict and anticipate versus react. When you are one step ahead, it gives to the advantage of ‘thinking’ versus simply reacting – which can mean a better outcome. The Ravens’ defense did this many times throughout the game, intercepting the ball and making tackles behind the line of scrimmage.”

4.    Absorb the stress for your team: “High-pressure situations usually revealcharacter rather than build it. The best leaders absorb the stress and continue to think clearly and make good decisions, while poor leaders tend to amplify stress, becoming emotional and even irrational. Both quarterbacks at different times in the game had massive stressed placed on them, and they both rose to the occasion and continued to lead their respective teams effectively.” 

5.    Don’t spike the ball on your way out: “Whether you are leaving a job for a new one or you had a great success at work, don’t rub it in people’s faces. Everyone likes a winner when they know how to win. Even when his brother went off the rails a bit to decry the official for a non-call toward the end of the game, John Harbaugh handled his victory very well from start to finish, even acknowledging that the 49ers handled the delay better.” 

Named by Bloomberg Businessweek as “the rising star of CEO consulting,” Stephen A. Miles is the founder and CEO of The Miles Group, which develops talent strategies for organizations, cultivates high-performing individuals and teams, and ensures effective leadership transitions through readiness coaching and succession.

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