Leadership Lessons from the Super Bowl in the Age of Social
Scott Hebner 270006Q23R firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  social broncos social-business bowl denver superbowl seahawks socbiz social-biz leadership seattle
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I’ll admit it: I love the Broncos. I have since I was eight years old living in Boulder, Colorado! Clearly Sunday’s game was not much fun for Denver fans like me or for my poor son who is now scarred for life. I woke up and said to myself, “what snap?” Yet with the benefit of a little distance, I can appreciate that the game brought a few leadership ideas to the forefront that we all should consider as we move forward in life, especially in the new, emerging world of the social web.
1. Start as you mean to finish, with passion and preparation!
Joe Namath—in a fur coat, no less—strolled out onto the field to throw the coin for the toss. Seattle called tails, won the toss, and took control of the game from that very moment. From the very start, the intensity and passion of the Seahawks was obvious. As with most things in life, passion and a commitment to succeeding are the key to winning. The Broncos, on the other hand, were clearly unprepared and appeared to lack the focus to win this specific contest. Furthermore, Seattle’s players seemed to be more active across the social networks, drawing in the energy of their fans. Seattle is a tech-heavy city, which means that players and fans are arguably more likely to use social networks. Still, I suspect that this energy helped to fuel Seattle to victory.
2. Ignore the experts, engage in social, and reap the wisdom of crowds.
Wasn’t the smart money on Denver? Most of the “best” experts agreed that the Broncos, with their fabled offense and the amazing Peyton Manning, would prevail. Even the weather fell into place. But if you were tuned into the social web you would have heard a very different set of predictions. Social analytics showed that the advantage was with the Seahawks. Who are you going to trust, a few experts apparently living in their bubbles, or the collective wisdom of millions of people? In today’s social world, this was just another example of the where real expertise lives.
3. Life is about progressive improvement. Learn, adapt and never give up!
Winning is hard. Being the best is 10 times harder and requires hard work, curiosity, and passion. Seattle illustrated this point over the last many years, progressively improving as a team and as individual players. Denver has done the same. They lost a heartbreaker last year in the first round of the playoffs but that defeat just strengthened their desire to win. They doubled down on their commitment to improve their game and were 15-4 this year and AFC champions. They made it to the Super Bowl. They set the all-time record for points scored and set the bar for what a prolific offense should be. Now it’s time for them to double down once again and win it all next year. They have two of the best leaders in the industry (Elway and Manning) who will demand it and secondly (and a dirty little secret) they had arguably five of their best players sitting on the sidelines. The wisdom of the crowd recognizes these points.
On a final note, yesterday’s game stands as a testament to one of football’s immutable truths: defense wins football. Congratulations to the Seahawks who delivered perhaps the most dominant defensive performance in the history of all 48 Super Bowls.
I guess anyone that tapped into the wisdom of the crowds via the social networks could have predicted the Seahawks’ victory. As a social business leader here at IBM, I should have known better than to go with my gut and root for my beloved Broncos! But while social technologies are now amplifying an array of innate human characteristics, changing the human condition forever, I guess that does not apply to emotion, addiction and love!