Peyton Manning has a message. Identify your strengths. Be more aware of your weaknesses. Be nice to the equipment guy. And if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.
Manning, the NFL’s all-time leader in nearly every prominent passing category and the only quarterback to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl crown, spoke in detail about leadership as the keynote speaker at Entrata Summit 2016.
“To me, leadership really boils down to one thing, and that’s the ability to influence others,” Manning said. “You’re not handed the title of leadership. Whether you’re a CEO, a district manager, a mother or a quarterback, you have to earn it.”
In an engaging question-and-answer session with Entrata CEO Dave Bateman, Manning imparted several anecdotes from his playing days that served as across-the-board wisdom. Exhibiting a sharp wit, a touch of self-deprecation and his trademark charisma, Manning talked about the ways he grew into a leader on more than just the stat sheet.
Citing several examples of coach quotes that stuck with him throughout the years, the former University of Tennessee, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback passed along some of his favorites.
“I had an old coach tell me that you either get better or worse every day; you don’t stay the same,” Manning said. “I always remembered that, so I always worked hard to get better. No matter how well things are going, you never want to be content. Never stop being coached.”
Among several zingers, Manning spoke about longtime rival Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. He said sometimes he’d believe, “Tom has probably gone to bed by now, so I’m going to stay up and prepare a little longer.”
“Pressure is only something you feel if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Manning said. “That’s why I never wanted to be out-prepared.”
To that point, Manning often would ask his coaches to send out a defense that the offense has never seen before in practice, just to see how the offense would react. He compared it to challenges one might face in the software industry when a previously unanticipated challenge arises. Camaraderie is easy when things are good and running smoothly, Manning said, but it’s definitely worth noting which team members stay the course when things are thrown into disarray.
He also relayed the importance of being kind to everyone in the organization, no matter how far up you are on the leadership scale.
“The Broncos don’t win the Super Bowl last year if it’s not for the equipment manager,” he said. “So I made it a point to be nice to the equipment manager and everyone else within the organization who is helping you reach your goal.”
Manning cautioned against overstepping your bounds when arriving at a new organization, even if you’re a prized talent, such as a quarterback, CEO or anyone else in a leadership position. There’s a grace period to earn the trust of your new teammates, so you don’t want to ruffle feathers or drastically change things early, even if you’re essentially in charge.
“When I joined the Broncos, I hadn’t played with any of those players so I was pretty quiet at first,” he said. “I just rolled up my sleeves and got to work. In time, if you’re doing the right things, the trust will come. And when someone does give you their trust, don’t take advantage of it.”