Talk about a blowout. The New England Patriots did just about everything right in Saturday night’s NFL playoff game. If you’re a fan of the Denver Broncos, not only were you disappointed in such a butt-kicking loss, but you were saddened to see their ‘against-all-odds’ run, led by quarterback Tim Tebow, come to an end.
Like most of the world, I am fascinated by the media attention given to and the resulting impact of Tim Tebow. This athlete is like no other quarterback, sports professional or even celebrity we’ve ever seen!
Because of his outspokenness, Tebow caused John 3:16 (his favorite Bible verse) to be a top-trending search on Google. And, this isn’t the first time he’s done that, either. His name is adorning headline after headline – some reinforcing his encouragement, some criticizing it. Nonetheless, he’s without a doubt one of the most talked-about people in our nation right now.
There’s just something different about him, don’t you agree? It’s that something that has everyone talking. I think that something is his leadership.
Tebow demonstrates leadership in a way we don’t often see, and from a position that hasn’t often been leveraged to this extent off the football field. He is an outstanding model of four key leadership principles that we can all learn from.
He’s not afraid to be different.
How many people can really say this? Not many from what I’ve seen. We all have these “little voices” in our heads that undermine our confidence, and instead of allowing us to stand-out, cause us to conform to everyone else. We want to be liked and accepted. We want to be in the “in-crowd.” We want to fit in with everyone, perhaps being at the “top” of everyone…but not so much that it would cause us to be different.
But the best leaders, the ones throughout all of history that we can all point to, they are all different. They are non-conformists. They are passionate about their different way of thinking. They know it’s their difference that will make all the difference! Abe Lincoln took an unpopular and different stance against slavery; Martin Luther King, Jr. had a different dream for equal rights; Steve Jobs took a different approach to give most people access to computer technology; Tony Hsieh addressed customer satisfaction differently by creating and nurturing a happy workforce.
The list could go on, but the point is clear: confidence in thinking differently breeds innovation and change. You can’t be just like everyone else and lead people to someplace new. For Tebow, it’s leading people to Christ, and he’s not afraid if that makes him different. (By the way, he’s also proud to be the first homeschooled athlete to win the highly notable Heisman Award, because it provides a great example of homeschooling success, for both academics and extracurricular activities – another big difference versus “traditional” thinking.)
He models humility and service to others.
Tebow is known for serving his teammates, his community and children with severe illnesses. He easily gives away credit where it’s due, and his interviews reflect a heart not eager to be famous, but rather to make a difference.
For every game, Tebow brings a sick or terminally ill child and his/her family to spend time with him before and after the game. He genuinely cares, and although he wants to win a football game, he seems more passionate about putting a smile on a child’s face. His actions inspire long-time sports fans and writers alike.
During a game, he is known for encouraging his teammates, giving grace when mistakes are made and keeping energy levels up. When a perfectly thrown pass is dropped by a receiver, Tebow is likely to help his teammate blow off the mistake, because he “still needs to catch the game-winning pass.”
Like a great leader, Tebow makes his presence known, not for self-serving purposes, but to somehow make life better for those around him.
He provides hope and vision.
There are so many things about Tebow that seem to be “unexplainable.” His unorthodox style of quarterbacking has experts both baffled and frustrated when it results in a win for his team. He helps us to believe in the unbelievable – for some, perhaps a step into Christian faith, for others, a simple belief that the underdog can win.
Tebow has overcome doubters and obstacles all his life; starting from birth, when his mother was advised to abort him after receiving medical treatment when she didn’t realize she was pregnant. During his college years, he received numerous awards and honors, including launching a non-profit on campus and making philanthropy “cool” for college kids.
As a professional NFL player, Tebow, who may not be the most consistent quarterback, uses the platform to provide hope to fans, viewers and teammates. He often comments about the importance of relationships he has built with his players and coaches. And, perhaps, most importantly to him, he is helping millions of people to believe in something bigger than themselves. He is consistent in his behavior and words, making it hard for people do doubt his belief or intentions….which only leaves them with hope that maybe, just maybe, there could be truth in what he is saying.
Napoleon Bonaparte is quoted as saying, “a leader is a dealer in hope.” Tebow provides a vision filled with hope. His actions even have coined a term called “tebowing” and he is one of the most popular NFL players, with his jersey and fathead likeness flying off the shelves. It’s hard to argue that people don’t want more of what this leader is dealing.
He is passionate and purpose-driven.
Millions of people are Googling Bible verses. Sexy magazines are polling people about the value of virginity and waiting until you’re married. People everywhere are seeing the value of giving back, or even just being a person of integrity. Tebow is making values seem “cool” and it’s motivating people to mimic him.
Like all great leaders, Tebow is passionately focused on his purpose. He is unabashed about it, despite heavy criticism by some. The criticism doesn’t sway him. Ever. He is focused, fully-believing in what he’s supposed to be doing with his life.
Tebow’s unwavering may be what is most convincing to others. His confidence and passion in his purpose seems to stir something in all of us. After all, don’t we all want to better understand what we’re here for? Purpose is something that most people want to better understand and claim for their own lives. Tebow seems to know his with clarity.
People want to follow a leader who is this sure, this passionate about his purpose. We want a piece of the dream, and we want to be marching behind someone whose intentions are this clear in getting us there.
Tebow many not be the best NFL quarterback in history, and who knows if he’ll even be a starter next season. Regardless, he’s made his mark on the world, and he’s made millions think and hope. And, I don’t think he’s going away any time soon. I think he still has more leading to do.
Erin Schreyer is President of Sagestone Partners and a Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker. Erin is passionate about building into people and bringing out their leadership qualities to help them excel in all areas of life.