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The Savvy Office Manager

All I need to know about leadership I learned from the Super Bowl

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Cal Butera

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in The Savvy Office Manager

Was it just a game? Or was there more to that annual ritual that brought people together rather than wedge them apart?

Yes, for that one Sunday, we seemed to have put the divisiveness aside, and let two symbols of our nation (the patriot and the eagle) duke it out for whatever it meant to you. No right or wrong here.

It was my day away from the office, so thank you for allowing me to emerge myself in the Woodstock of sports where I quaffed a beer or two, flung a chicken wing bone at the ref for a dubious call, and let the guacamole fall where it may.

I awoke Monday morning a bit wiser from the day-long pageantry of Super Bowl LII.

Here’s what I learned from the game and its trimmings that I can put to use in my quest to be a better leader:

The pregame hype. Although it was two degrees outside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, it wasn’t so inside the cozy dome, where the $12 16-ounce Bud Lights didn’t exactly freeze up during the handoff from vendor to fan. Dilly, dilly. The hype of the “coldest Super Bowl ever” resonated only with those queued up to enter the 70-degree venue.

The lesson for leaders: Don’t make something out to be what it’s not. Keep things real and in perspective. On a more positive note, we learned that Eagles defensive end Chris Long donated his base salary (about $1 million) to charities he believes make our country a better place to live. We need more Chris Longs in our workplaces.

The commercials. We all want a hearty laugh, and for the most part, the TV ads delivered on that front, from Amazon’s “Alexa Loses Her Voice” to the Tide/Old Spice mash-up. Levity and laughter is an undisputed uniter. Remember that when you’re leading your team. Since you can’t live and prosper on giggles alone, there were a few commercials that reminded us that we ought to be socially responsible. Thank you, Dodge and T-Mobile.

The lesson for leaders: Stay light-hearted, but also big-hearted.

The National Anthem. Pop singer Pink did a beautiful job with "The Star-Spangled Banner" despite battling the flu. She removed a throat lozenge from her mouth and tossed it on the field before singing before an unforgiving audience that waits—if not hopes—for a slip-up. But Pink nailed it stunningly. Bravo.

The lesson for leaders: Sometimes you just need to go to work and get the job done. With no complaints.

The coin toss. The last living soldier to receive the nation's highest award for valor from serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II was given the honor of flipping the iconic coin. That was Herschel “Woody” Williams beaming a smile along with referee Gene Steratore. Who didn’t feel proud at that moment? Some on Twitter called Williams the MVP of the game.

The lesson for leaders: Never forget those who helped you get where you are. No matter how far removed they seem.

The halftime spectacle. A Prince hologram? No, scratch that. It was just an image on a screen bathed in purple light. A Janet Jackson appearance? Nope, not again. Amid rumors that never materialized and high-stakes speculation, Justin Timberlake, the Man of the Woods, may want to find some thick oaks or elms to hide behind after getting walloped with criticism for his performance in the fishbowl to end all fishbowls. Any recording artist gutsy enough to try to advance his or career on a hastily assembled stage for a 14-minute run-the-hits-together concert before a merciless in-stadium crowd as well as an alcohol-impaired at-home audience needs some sort of credit.

The lesson for leaders: The climb upward is fraught with slings, arrows and cruel, anonymous tweets. Deal with it.

Tom Brady. His biggest mistake was the choice of clothing he wore on his gladiatorial march into the arena. Yes, Milan-quality threads (my entire reach-in closet of clothes couldn’t buy a replacement button for that coat), but it was fodder for the same crowd that went after Timberlake.

The lesson for leaders: Something about a haughty spirit before a fall.

Jeffrey Lurie. The Eagles owner raised the Lombardi Trophy—its shine gone from hand and kiss prints—and said "This is for Eagles fans everywhere." Yes. Eagles fans. The folks who pull out their cash and credit cards for game tickets, souvenirs and team-emblazoned clothing, but more important, who never put away their faith in the team.

The lesson for leaders: Recognize everyone involved. Everyone.

Nick Foles. The Eagles quarterback, the MVP of Super Bowl LII, who just a few weeks ago was a backup to Carson Wentz, turned the team from underdogs to world champs with a simple twist of fate brought on by a lot a hard work, dedication and unflinching focus.

The lesson for leaders: Aesop has a tortoise to show you.

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