Leadership Lessons from Super Bowl XLIV

The underdog New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in yesterday’s NFL Super Bowl, in large part I believe, to the power of their purpose. Purpose is defined as “the reason for which something exists or is done; an intended or desired result; determination, resoluteness.” Not that the Colts didn’t have a purpose because they certainly did. Every NFL team has a purpose of winning the Super Bowl each year. But this year it seemed as though the New Orleans Saints connected with their own purpose on a much deeper level that fueled them to victory when it counted most.

The story of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and its devastating impact on the city of New Orleans has been well chronicled. In March 2006, Drew Brees joined the Saints football team having just come off major shoulder surgery that threatened his playing career. Brees has been quoted as saying that he felt his decision to join the Saints was a “calling” – a higher purpose that he needed to fulfill, not only to resurrect his own career, but also to help the people of New Orleans resurrect their city. This deep connection to his own personal purpose and that of the city at large created a culture change within the Saints organization which ultimately led them to achieving the greatest prize in their profession.

After the game Brees was quoted as saying, “We played for our city. We played for the entire Gulf Coast region. We played for the entire Who Dat nation that has been behind us every step of the way.”

Teams of all kinds, whether in the sports world, corporate America, or the non-profit sector, can take a lesson from the Saints and the power of purpose. When chartering a team, one of the first priorities is to establish a clear purpose. “Why do we exist?” and “What are we trying to achieve?” are key questions that need to be answered.

Once a team is clear on its purpose, it can establish the values that will guide team members’ behaviors and decisions and in turn establish goals that will help them achieve their purpose. Finding a way to connect each team members’ personal purpose to that of the team will exponentially increase the productivity and morale of the team, allowing the team to achieve more than any one individual possibly could. When the team faces adversity, it will be their firm belief and commitment to their purpose that will carry them through.

“Just to think of the road we’ve all traveled, the adversity we’ve all faced,” Brees said.

“It’s unbelievable. I mean, are you kidding me? Four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening? Eighty-five percent of the city was under water. Most people left not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back, or if the organization would ever come back.

“We just all looked at one another and said, ‘We’re going to rebuild together. We are going to lean on each other.’ That’s what we’ve done the last four years and this is the culmination in all that belief.”

That sounds like the power of purpose to me.

9 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from Super Bowl XLIV

  1. The lessons here have been seen many times in the sporting world. I am amazed that organisations and businesses seem reluctant to follow them.

    A greater sense of Purpose, in particular a profound Purpose, is a highly motivational tool – bringing together human spirit in the singular pursuit of a common goal. It outweighs bonuses and other financial rewards, and provides a cohesive bond for team activity.

    I have seen this effect across numerous organisations and my recent research in this field has identified that what are beginnning to be called “Authentic” leaders, businesses, and organisations usually outperform their peers.

    You can find more from some examples described on my blog:

    James Rock

    • I appreciate your feedback James. I believe “authenticity” springs out of a person’s deep connection to their purpose. When someone is motivated by their purpose, they’re usually not trying to be something they’re not.

  2. In organisations one often then finds that the organisation lacks purpose or mission. Further the individuals in the organisation ultimately also end up lacking any personal mission. I have resolved never to be a part of anything that simply exists to make money. Fulfillment comes from purpose.

    • Tichaona, your comment echoes similar ones I have heard from many, many other employees. In the current downturn employers haven’t been so worried about losing employees and recruiting new ones, but they will as the economy grows again, and there is more competition for highly skilled and highly motivated resources. Looking forward, those businesses and organisations that get their vision and purpose right will win the battle for talent that is sure to develop.

      James Rock

    • Thanks for your reply Tichaona. I completely agree with you that the ultimate sense of fulfillment comes from living out your purpose rather than having external factors (like money) being your main motivation.

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  5. I will probably get flamed for what I say.I don’t dislike the Colts, even though I grew up in Texas. Whats not to like about Peyton Manning? Hes got game gifted by Lord, don’t forget Daddy Arch, and he says hes a to be a quiet guy. Every time somebody mentions his awesome records Peyton sometime says something to the effect of I just feel humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as those players.The Holy Ones 31 The Baby Horses 28

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