Another Super Bowl is in the books. Peyton Manning ended the season and possibly his career with a record 200th victory. Beyond the contest on the field, this battle between Manning and Carolina’s Cam Newton was also a contrast in attitudes. The difference between the two QB’s reflects a choice between two very different alternatives as we consider our way of being in the rough and tumble atmosphere of the modern workplace.
The Center of the Show.
Newton exemplifies what David Brooks calls, the “Big Me, a culture that encourages people to see themselves as the center of the universe” (See The Road to Character, pg. 6). Back in December, Newton’s response to critics and questions about his potential MBP status was a tween storm of “kiss my a__.” (See this piece in Sports World News or this one in the New York Post.) Newton is an example of what Jim Collins calls the Charismatic Leader–flash and dash, spin, build one’s own brand, put personal advancement over organizational results.
The writer of Proverbs shared the following axiom:
Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor. (Proverbs 29:23)
Perhaps Newton’s Super Bowl loss is an example of this principle at play. Certainly we can think of times when “Charismatic,” all about me leaders at work, crash and burn, flame out, or seem to fade away. (Unfortunately we can also think of times when they seem to stay around well beyond their welcome!) On the opposite side of the Super Bowl playing field, was a very different kind of sports star.
Manning’s tone is one of humility. When asked both before and after they game about his feelings, Manning’s most used words were gratitude and team. He was choked up as expressed his love for his team and the game of football. Even the way the game was played showed Manning’s humility. This great passer spent most of the game handing the ball off, playing it safe, and depending on the defense. His Super Bowl victory was not a flash and dash dramatic finish to his stellar career. It was an approach that looked more like wisdom and even caution.
Manning exudes the “compelling modesty” that characterizes top tier leaders (see Good to Great, page 27). They are dispossessed of the need to fight for themselves. (They are also a lot nicer to be around!)
A Power Behind Humility
I’m not sure what has driven Manning’s sense of gratitude, but I appreciate it. For those of us who follow Christ into there work place there is one anchoring reality that drives us to let go of fighting for ourselves.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)
The active care of a heavenly father who is aware of our needs and who loves us, gives us the security to move from the Big Me way of work to a the little me approach. Here the provision of God, the needs of others, and the synergy of a team trump the temptations of image management and one-upmanship.
Congratulations Mr. Manning!