Leadership Lessons from the Superbowl Bound Chiefs

Finally! The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Superbowl. Those Chiefs fans have been watching and waiting for 50 years. I’ve been watching with them for many of those years. I love watching football. However, I really love what football can teach us leaders about being Present.


By now you have heard Doug talk about leadership or have seen his book, Must Be Present to Win.


It happened at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City Chiefs’ management decided that they wanted to set the record for the loudest outdoor stadium in the world. The previous record was set at CenturyLink field in Seattle at 137 decibels. The Chiefs chose to make the world record attempt during the game against the Raiders.What is the third kind of Presence for a leader?

A couple of times during that game, messages scrolled across the stadium’s Jumbotron instructing the crowd to “Get Loud.” But it didn’t work. Some Chiefs fans dropped their heads, but not because they were going to lose the game. The Chiefs had a slight lead, but the score was close. The fans were disappointed because they didn’t think they would break the record and become the loudest outdoor stadium in the world.


Until Something Happened

The Raiders were driving for a possible game-winning touchdown late in the game. The Raiders quarterback Terrelle Prior threw a pass, and his receiver was in position to catch it for a big gainer. But instead of the Raider player catching it, the Chiefs defender, #31 Marcus Cooper, intercepted the ball and sealed the win for the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

The crowd erupted instantaneously, spontaneously. The stadium’s press box shook hard. The meter said it all: 137.5 decibels—the loudest outdoor stadium in the world.

They couldn’t plan it. They couldn’t organize it. They couldn’t do it on cue or on command. I can’t explain it, except to say that those Chiefs fans were Emotionally Present!


What Leaders Learn

Leaders must be Emotionally Present.

There are two lessons for us leaders from that day at Arrowhead Stadium.

First, Don’t be a Jumbotron! We have to do more than just tell people what to do—that alone doesn’t work. You can’t just flash the instructions up on a board. You can’t just hold a big meeting, and logically explain what needs to happen. It doesn’t work that way; it takes more than that.

People might make decisions with logic, but they act on emotions. Our garages are full of emotional decisions, not logical ones.

People don’t charge a hill on logic. You cannot start a fire in the heart of your organization unless there is one burning in you first. Leaders must be Emotionally Present.

Second, Connect with People! And the way we connect is on a human level, an emotional level. Don’t be that stuffy executive who rides in on a white horse, reads a nice, logical speech, and rides out.

Leaders show commitment by revealing their passions and emotions to connect with people on a human level. As leaders, we can never lead something we don’t passionately care about. Show that passion. Show your emotions.

To inspire real action as a leader, be Emotionally Present.