Leaders Take Responsibility

I’m a big-time fan of the Chicago Bears. In fact, I’m a big-time sports fan. Not only do I find watching and participating in sports activities fun, I often find them instructive for life.

Like this past week.

The Blame-Game Leader

This past Thursday, Da Bears (the Chicago Bears football team) had a horrendous game against their archrivals the Green Bay Packers. In the game, Da Bears’ quarterback, Jay Cutler, threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times.

During the game, Jay “got in the face” of his young offensive lineman, J’Marcus Webb, for lack of execution in protecting his blind side. Not only did he get in Webb’s face, he gave him a shoulder shove on the sidelines.

Afterwards, when asked about the incident, Jay defended his actions saying, “I’m not out there for my health. I’m serious about this. I want to win.”

Bears nickelback, D. J. Moore, was not happy with Cutler’s approach. He intimated that by going after Webb, Cutler was implying that it was all Webb’s fault, rather than Cutler taking any personal responsibility for his own bad throws, bad decision-making, and bad play.

Overall, I’m a Jay Cutler fan. But his response to the debacle is in sharp contrast to Peyton Manning’s response last night—which I’ll highlight momentarily.

Jay, as the leader of Da Bears’ offense, played the blame-game. He did it publicly. And, given a chance later, after the heat of the moment, Jay never took an ounce of responsibility—even four days later.

The Mature Leader: Taking Responsibility

Contrast that “leadership style” with the immediate reaction of Denver Broncos’ QB, Peyton Manning. Last night on Monday Night Football, in Manning’s first three series with the ball, he threw three interceptions.

Asked about what happened, Manning said firmly, “Decision-making.” His poor decisions. “Three really poor decisions,” he said—of himself.

As Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports said:

“Manning took all of the blame, as a leader of his stature does: ‘In the end I put our team in too far of a hole.’ He said there was no confusion over play-calling or the offense. No one ran a poor route. This wasn’t about crowd noise or anything the Falcons did. He just played terribly in that first quarter. ‘I don't make any excuses when it comes to turning the ball over,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to take care of the ball better.’”

The Mature Leader—Not 'Too High' and Not 'Too Low'

Not only did Manning refuse to play the blame-game, instead pointing fingers at himself, Manning refused to get “too high” when things were good and “too low” when things were bad. The previous week, his first back from several neck surgeries, Manning was brilliant. But he downplayed the hype over his strong play, noting it was just one game and mocking the idea he was vindicated.

And after last night’s horrible game, Manning didn’t get to low, reminding reporters that he once threw six interceptions in a game. Manning, ever the pro, is able to keep things in perspective—mentally and emotionally.

Cutler, on the other hand, after Da Bears first game win over the Indianapolis Colts, provided the Packers with bulletin board motivation by bragging about how good the Bears’ offense was and how they would pick apart the Packers. Instead, Cutler threw pick after pick to the Packers.

Cutler got too high.

Cutler also has a tendency to get too low.

When a game starts poorly for Cutler, it seems to snowball for him—the negative, hang-dog mental attitude takes over and Cutler’s decision-making and body language sink lower and lower.

Manning, on the other hand, after throwing those three interceptions, kept matters in perspective. His stats, his play, and his attitude all remained strong and he almost led the Broncos to a come-from-behind victory.

Again, I’m a Jay Cutler fan. However, if he’s to lead the Bears to their potential this year, he has a lot to learn from Peyton Manning.

As does every leader—be it a leader of a church or the leader in the home.

  • Leaders don’t play the blame game. Leaders take personal responsibility.
  • Leaders don’t get too high or too low. Leaders lead for the long-haul.
  • Leaders don’t allow their emotions to control them. Leaders control their emotions.

Join the Conversation

What type of leader are you—a Manning leader or a Cutler leader?

What other leadership lessons (good and bad) can we learn from Manning and Cutler?

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