Can Newton vs. Can't Newton: A Lesson in Leadership


In an article by Gregg Rosenthal of Around The NFL, we are left with the clear message of just how “This has been the season of Cam Newton.” It was unanimous (48/50 votes) that the Panther’s QB was by far this year’s MVP. His size, skill, speed, strength, enthusiasm, and passion are truly intoxicating. And the fans, media, opposing players, coaches and teammates were all clearly drinking the ‘Cam Kool-Aid’. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the excitement he generates and the energy you feel by just watching him in action. As Rosenthal writes, “the type of player who lifted teammates to another level.” As a leader, this is what we strive for. Having that much impact on the ‘level of play’ of the people around you.

Great leaders are keenly sensitive to the visual message they are sending to those around them. Their team is constantly watching. They are watching your body language, your pace, your facial expressions and all of this communicates your message. If the message is positive and confident, the people around you begin to believe in their own abilities and the abilities of their teammates. They see small successes and build on each other and suddenly we believe it, “we can actually win, we can achieve this.” From here, the momentum propels the team to reach goals once referred to as aspirational. Throughout the 2015 season Cam Newton demonstrated how he could be an effective leader. He also taught us how a leader’s message through body language can be contagious, and stimulate exceptional momentum that results in exceptional performance.

Unfortunately, that contagious message, Your Message, can prove to be infectious. If the message you are delivering is conflicting, uncertain, and defeated, that same leader can negatively impact the people around them. In Roger Ailes’ book, “You Are the Message,” he recommends leaders are best served to act more as a thermostat, regulating the energy and intensity, versus a thermometer, reacting to the environment with transparency. During this year’s Super Bowl, we watched an amazing athlete with outstanding leadership qualities drag his team down to a state of disbelief, doubt and defeatism. Before the end of the first half, Cam Newton’s (or should we say, Can’t Newton’s) body language screamed to his teammates and to the 112 million viewers “I don’t believe we can turn this around.” Even my 13-year-old son (a major Cam fan) said, “Dad, it looks like he’s given up.”

Leadership Lesson

When times are tough and recurring adversity is taking it’s toll on the team…remember that they are intently watching their leader. How are they responding to this? Do they still believe? Are they still in this fight? Unfortunately the Carolina Panthers offense, who are used to inspirational Can Newton, followed the lead of Can’t Newton.

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