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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Peyton Manning’s Leadership Lessons for Advisors

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Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning announced Monday that he was retiring from the NFL. “There’s just something about 18 years. Eighteen is a good number,” Manning said in a Denver press conference. “And today I retire from pro football,” after 18 record-setting years, including winning two Super Bowls, most recently last month in Super Bowl 50.

Manning has husbanded his football salaries throughout his career. Forbes estimates his 2015 compensation was $27 million (including $12 million in endorsements) making him the 32nd highest-paid athlete on Forbes’ list last year. MoneyNation says Manning has a net worth of $191 million.

Beyond his athletic exploits, Manning is a poised speaker who found a welcoming audience at Pershing’s 2013 InSite conference when he spoke about decision-making. 

We reported then that Manning said “you can be a warrior or a worrier,” and that a leader should make decisions “without flip flopping or vacillation.” Manning argued that while a “team plays better when a leader doesn’t hesitate” in his decision-making, “to get to that level requires an enormous amount of preparation,” which is why he said, he feels comfortable making audible calls at the line of scrimmage.

He told the InSite audience that at any given moment, “there is no one correct decision,” and that you must always make decisions knowing it may not be the right one. However, he said, you “can’t build decisions based on hope.” Finally, referencing his four neck surgeries, the last of which forced him out of the NFL for a year, he said that “resilience is the reward for preparation.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Investment Advisor columnist and ThinkAdvisor blogger Angie Herbers has written two thoughtful pieces on Manning’s leadership lessons for advisors, since she is a big football fan (starting with K State).

In a 2014 column, Herbers recalled watching an NFL pregame show in which the panel of pundits was asked who they would rather have quarterback their team: Manning or Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher said on the show that he would take Manning because through his understanding of and passion for the game, “he makes everyone around him better.” Herbers wrote that “Manning could be a great model for all of us. That includes independent owner-advisors who can make everyone in their firm better, through their knowledge, their insight, their drive for excellence and their passion for what they do.”

After last month’s Super Bowl, Herbers wrote that one of the many encomiums that surfaced about Manning came from fellow quarterback Russell Wilson of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

As Herbers tells the story, while in high school Wilson attended one of Manning’s football camps, “and he credits what he learned under Manning’s guidance as a major factor in his later success.” In addition to the typical athletic paeans of “working hard, being disciplined and being respectful,” Wilson said Manning inspired him “to love the process, to love the sweat, the tears.” 

Herbers says Wilson’s words “struck me for what it says not just about football, but about all the important things in our lives: from our relationships and marriages, to raising children, to our careers. The importance of ‘a process’ is especially true in advisory businesses, where we’ve found that the most successful owner-advisors view building their firms as a process, which they enjoy along the way.

“The wisdom of Wilson’s comment is in the vision that it suggests,” Herbers concluded. “Creating an advisory firm isn’t a goal to be attained, it’s a journey to be lived.”

One final piece of praise for Manning can be found in an unlikely place: from the leader of a big asset management firm. When bond king Bill Gross jettisoned PIMCO in favor of joining Janus in 2014, Richard Weil of Janus said that “Bill Gross is our Peyton Manning,” calling him “that game-changing level of talent for us.”

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