“Eleven Leadership Lessons from Tim Tebow’s Success” By Joseph Mattera

“Eleven Leadership Lessons from Tim Tebow’s Success” By Joseph Mattera December 15, 2011

Like many others in the country, I have been closely following Tim Tebow’s journey from college to professional football, and I am thrilled with his incredible success in the NFL!

Tebow was picked low in the first round of the college draft because of his supposed weaknesses as a passer. This was in spite of him winning the Heisman Trophy and leading his team to two BCS National Championships.

Since his days as a college quarterback I have been impressed with his incredible leadership ability, coupled with his impeccable character. (He is still a virgin as an NFL star!) I felt he would do well as a professional because of these intangible qualities that most underestimate. Since taking over as the Broncos quarterback when the team was given up for dead with a record of 1-4, he has led the team to win 7 of their last 8 games including 6 in a row. Now the team is on their way to the playoffs with a record of 8-5, with most of those wins being dramatic come-from-behind victories in the last few minutes of the game. This has shocked the nation and even overshadowed the great undefeated season the Green Bay Packers are having!

I believe Tim Tebow is a sign from God to the nation regarding the ability of the gospel to change and bless lives. In the same way God used human flesh as a bridge in the incarnation of Christ to reveal Himself to humankind, God sometimes uses the popularity of people like Tebow in aspects of life to spread His word and make Himself known to millions of people.

The following are some of the lessons we can learn from the Tebow experience. (The quotes below are from a Wall Street Journal article dated December 10, 2011 entitled “Tim Tebow: God’s Quarterback.”

The ability of one leader with passion and faith to elevate everyone else around them 

As a person who works with numerous leaders on a regular basis, I consider myself a decent judge of leadership ability. I have been following sports since 1969 and in all my life I have never seen a person in sports with such a high level of the intangible qualities of leadership that I have seen in Tim Tebow. Thus far, his ability to motivate his teammates to reach their potential is greater than what I have observed in Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, John Elway, Mark Messier, or anyone else I can think of! This is one quality that cannot be measured through stats, arm strength, athleticism, etc. but usually manifests both on the field and in the locker room by how a team rallies around their leader for the sake of realizing their common dream.

The influence of godly parents on their children

Tim Tebow is an example of a mature, grounded, spiritual, humble young person who was homeschooled by his parents. The godly influence of two-parent households on their children cannot be overstated in regards to how children develop emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. Homeschoolers have the advantage of spending more time with their parents and families because they do not have to spend forty-plus hours per week in public or private schools with people that may not share their same godly values.

The importance of using the platform of our vocation to glorify God

Tebow’s improbable success is shaking the whole nation because most scouts and sports analysts, including Broncos team president John Elway (an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback who has thus far refused to make a long-term commitment to Tebow) didn’t give Tebow a chance to survive in the NFL, never mind become an elite quarterback!  To quote the Wall Street Journal: “This combination of candid piety and improbable success on the field has made Mr. Tebow the most-discussed phenomenon of the National Football League season. Most expert analysts still consider him poor material for a pro quarterback. An inexperienced passer with awkward throwing mechanics and the build of a fullback, he likes to run over defensive players, which is a no-no in the NFL, whose starting quarterbacks are expensive and hard to come by.”

Because Tebow integrates every aspect of his life with his faith, his success is bringing glory to God!

The importance of building our lives upon godly character more than our gifts and abilities

So many sports players are destroying their careers and/or giving athletes a bad name with their bad behavior. The Wall Street Journal cites “Eric Jefferson, a first-team all-American defensive end who was arrested for armed robbery, and Michael Burden, an NFL-bound defensive back who was charged with rape and then ‘vanished without a trace.’  More recently, we have seen the disrupted careers of star athletes like Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Tiger Woods—men whose lives in professional sports have been undermined by character faults.”

It is a breath of fresh air to have arguably today’s most prominent professional athlete as a model for young people to follow. It is evident that Tebow was ready for prime time because of his deep devotion to Christ, his family upbringing, and the emotional maturity that was produced by both of these combined. His life shows that he knows football is only a game; it is not the most important thing in life. For Tebow, football is nothing compared to helping and serving others and loving God with all his heart. To quote the Wall Street Journal: “In postgame interviews, the young quarterback often starts by saying, ‘First, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ and ends with ‘God bless.’ He stresses that football is just a game and that God doesn’t care who wins or loses.”

The power of prayer and staying grounded in God 

Every time Tebow or his team scores, he kneels with one leg on the field and prays, giving glory to God. This is now being called “Tebowing” and is being emulated by people across all walks of life, even non-Christians. To quote the Journal: “Mr. Tebow’s habit of taking to one knee in prayer on the field has given rise to an Internet meme called ‘Tebowing.’ Fans have posted pictures of themselves praying on one knee while doing everything from surfing and fighting fires to touring China and going into battle.”

Thus, open, public prayer is now becoming fashionable, highlighting on a national level the importance and power of prayer. After all, if a prominent NFL star publically shows that he has to depend on Jesus Christ for his strength and ability to perform on the field and in life, then all of us can do the same without being embarrassed by what others say.

The power of humility to impress masses of people 

Recently, when Tebow was tackled, the player who sacked him mockingly went down on one knee to emulate Tim’s “Tebowing.”  To quote the article: “He suffered seven sacks, including one by Stephen Tulloch, after which Mr. Tulloch took a knee, ‘Tebowing’ as Mr. Tebow struggled to rise. When asked how he felt about Mr. Tulloch’s mockery, Mr. Tebow responded, ‘He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack. And good for him.’”

This typical Tebow response gives a snapshot of his humility and emotional maturity that is enabling him to handle his great success without succumbing to fleshly outbursts and arrogance.

The power of utilizing our gifts, strengths and abilities to excel 

Since Tebow is not a typical quarterback he can’t necessarily emulate other players at his position who have succeeded in the past. His success is based on more than his uncanny ability to operate under pressure and to motivate his teammates to believe in themselves. Because he is not afraid to run over tacklers, many of his touchdowns have come by rushing yardage and not by throws. This is something most quarterbacks have shied away from, with the exception of Michael Vick and a few others.

Other leaders can be our models but there is really just one “you.” Each of us needs to find our particular strengths to get us where we need to go. When we copy other leaders too much, often we try to be or do something we are not gifted or called to do.

The power of divine providence to change outcomes and unfold destiny

Tim Tebow’s mother was advised by doctors to abort him when her pregnancy became complicated. To quote the Journal: “Mr. Tebow filmed a Super Bowl commercial for Focus on the Family, the mega-ministry known for its conservative political advocacy. The ad is about how Mr. Tebow’s mother was advised to abort her son following a placental abruption, but she refused and, well, now we have Tim Tebow.”

This shows the divine providence of God in bringing Tebow into the world healthy and using him as a great symbol of the pro-life movement. Furthermore, because football is a team sport many other things have to come into play to win games besides one leader’s raw talent. Thus, all of the Broncos’ recent come-from-behind wins also demonstrate divine providence. (What many would call luck we call providence.)

The power of living a life of service and sacrifice to bless humanity 

Instead of wasting his time, his money and his life with his affluence, Tebow spends his free time using his celebrity status to serve others. To quote the Journal: “While at Florida, Mr. Tebow became well known for spending his summers helping the poor and needy in the Philippines. He also spoke in prisons and appeared to accept every opportunity to volunteer. He encouraged his teammates and classmates to follow his lead.”

By his example, Tebow was able to change the culture of his whole university. I’m sure we will see the same kind of effect in Denver and in the nation as Tebow becomes a symbol of hope and living a life of self-sacrifice instead of a life based on the lusts of the flesh. I’m sure many thousands of young people will want to emulate his life and live a life of service to others.

Leaders must perform their best in crises and under pressure 

Nobody ever counts Tebow or the Denver Broncos out of a game, especially in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter that I have heard many call “Tebow Time.” Tebow shows us that great leaders perform well under pressure. Often, they excel most during a crisis. For example, Winston Churchill would have never become so famous and prominent unless there was an Adolf Hitler and a German nation to conquer during World War II. Hence, the enormous stress of that war revealed the greatness of his leadership more than times of peace in England between the two world wars.

Less is more for leadership effectiveness 

Since Tebow has experienced some difficulty transitioning to the professional level because of his limitations as a quarterback, his coach is utilizing an offense similar to the one Tebow ran in college. Sometimes, less is more. The more complicated our lives, and the more ways we try to accomplish our mission, the more we may fail because we are not focused enough on what we do best. Tebow teaches us that we can be successful even if we are limited in our approach and methodologies.

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