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Packers’ Aaron Rodgers on Leadership, Post-NFL Career: Pershing Insite

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Pershing’s INSITE 2017 conference in San Diego had some extra fans this year, as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took the stage for the final session on June 16. Rodgers wrapped up three days of sessions on leadership, investing, technology and more that drew about 2,000 financial professionals, and likely some Packer fans. (Rodgers filled in for tennis star Serena Williams.)

Rodgers, who was interviewed by Pershing Advisor Solutions CEO Mark Tibergien, told the crowd that, “When you play in Titletown, they expect titles. I hope to get back there soon.”

The athlete, who grew up in Northern California, says he follows other sports and other sports legends carefully. Rodgers says that NBA star Michael Jordan once explained that he drew inspiration “and challenged himself [from] negative things being said” by his critics.

(Related: Bernie Swain: Keys to Great Speeches and How Not to Bore Clients)

“In business and athletics, you’ve got to be self-motivated and continue to be so,” Rodgers said. “Find [your] sources of motivation and harness them. Never settle. Never. [It’s about] continuous improvement.”

The 2011 Super Bowl champ added: “I have a deep personal desire to be great and to have the satisfaction of proving people wrong.” In other words, put that chip on shoulder to good use.

Rodgers recently attended the fifth game of the NBA finals, where he chatted with Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry after the team won its second championship. “I looked at all the talent at that NBA game. It was very inspiring to me. I left that game saying, ‘I can’t wait until the football season starts,’” he said.

Other keynote speakers at INSITE, which was held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt (near the waterfront and Gas Lamp district), included Jack Lew, former head of the U.S. Treasury; Oscar Salazar, a founder and ex-CTO of Uber; Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit; Rana el Kaliouby, co-founder and CEO of Affectiva; and Platon, an award-winning portrait photographer.

“The annual INSITE conference is a true testament to BNY Mellon’s investment across the enterprise in our clients’ success,” Pershing CEO Lisa Dolly said in a statement. “This year, we [brought] yet another group of exceptional speakers to offer clients unique insights and the latest thinking on macro trends impacting their business, as well as emerging issues and new technologies that are transforming the industry,” Dolly explained.

Leadership Lessons

Tibergien told the crowd during his chat with Rodgers that Sports Illustrated and leadership blogger Brian Dodd have highlighted the following management tips from the quarterback’s success:

  • Be a continual leader
  • Always be in control
  • Create multiple options
  • Commit to continual personal growth
  • Be comfortable in your own skin
  • Always have something to prove

To these nuggets, Rodger adds: be a really good notetaker. He says he is always listening to what the coaches and players say about certain game strategies or plays they like to run. “Be as engaged as they are,” the quarterback said.  

The two-time Most Valuable Player also says that being aware of one’s image and public persona all the time is extremely important for leaders. “As the face of the franchise, I don’t want to be in the headlines, be in the wrong place at the wrong time or make the organization look bad,” he explained.

(Related: Bernie Swain: Keys to Great Speeches and How Not to Bore Clients)

With technology, “You’ve got to be smart today. Back in 2005 when he was drafted, “You could get away with [things], which is very different from 2017. Now, the stuff will get out there … A reputation takes forever to build and one second to get thrown away.”

Succession Planning, Team Work

Rodgers says he is in the process of creating a “post-career plan” for himself.

“Seventy-five percent of NFL players are either broke, divorced or unemployed after [they start] retirement, which is alarming. A lot of it, I think, is about taking the time to find a mentor or explore [other] interests,” he explained, adding that NFL’s off-season programs for players “are great.”

The quarterback advises others to “make contacts” and “to have an exit strategy.”

To get to know other players, “Today, you have to make a more concerted effort [than in the past] to interact with teammates,” and that means taking time away from smartphones, he explained.

In the past, players used to sit around and play cards, backgammon other games together. “Now, we’re all on [our] phones in the locker room,” Rodgers said.

“It’s key for leaders to be authentic in their style of leadership and to make the effort to get to know” those they work with, he explained. Some younger players are nervous interacting with Rodgers at first, he says, “so then I have to give more of myself to make them comfortable.”

He spends time going out to dinner with his colleagues and taking some to special events like the Kentucky Derby. “A well-connected team off the field is going to show up at the right time on the field,” Rodgers said. “Chemistry and leadership often get you over the humps you face.”

The quarterback does try to relate to younger teammates via technology, as well.

“You’ve got to find out what apps they are in and follow them on Instagram …,” he said. It’s about learning “what makes them tick and what they are into, so you can figure out how to motivate them – what buttons to push on … to see how people are inspired.

When asked about the current trend in kids sports to give out trophies to all players and teams, rather than trophies just to the winners, Rodgers said he sees participation trophies “as garbage” – adding “I never had one.”

While he points to other sports legends as his role models, the quarterback also described the impact of his fourth-grade teacher.

“He challenged me academically and personally to be a better person,” Rodgers said. “He opened us up to ideas about life, very interesting ideas … like how your heart and your life intersect … and the importance of being a well-rounded individual.”

‘In the Moment’

Other issues on the quarterback’s mind these days include managing off-the-field issues. “I want to be in control of my narrative,” he said, rather than letting others speak for him. “I challenge you to take back the narrative of your life, one, and, two, to live presently.”

In seeking to sharpen his focus and being more present “in the moment” — in conversations and overall in his life — Rodgers has turned to meditation. “For me, it’s about … living in the present, which is not a cliché, … and putting down [phones and other devices] to enjoy being with people, nature and just being,” he explained.

In other words, he aims to find the time and the focus to be authentic. “I just love these opportunities to share who I am,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said. “Don’t let special moments pass you by [which can happen] when you’re’ looking at something that is stealing your attention.”

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