Tim Tebow, Natural Born Leader?

Photo by Jeffrey BeallWe’re roughly halfway through the NFL season. And while there have been many intriguing storylines, perhaps the most compelling subject has been the current starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Tim Tebow. The cultural phenomenon known as Tebowmania can be traced back to Tebow’s days as quarterback of the Florida Gators where he became the first college softmore in history to win the Heisman Trophy and led the team to two national championships in three years. Yet, intense discussion and debate surrounding Tebow has continued at a fever pitch since his controversial selection in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.  His detractors say that he doesn’t possess the necessary technique and skill-set to be an effective quarterback in the NFL. His proponents say that he possesses an ideal set of intangibles, that he’s a winner, and routinely refer to him as a natural born leader.

That last description really intrigues me. Can someone truly be a natural born leader? What does it mean to be a natural born leader? Generally speaking, people are not natural born leaders. However, people can be born into a situation that supports their growth and development of leadership qualities. I would venture to say that Tebow’s background and upbringing provided a healthy environment that fostered the development of his leadership qualities. He wasn’t born to be a leader but he was raised in an environment that allowed for him to become one.

To his credit, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone question Tebow’s character or leadership abilities. ESPN analyst Matthew Berry recently shared his experience of meeting Tebow for the first time. After a minute with Tim Tebow, Berry went from someone who didn’t care to understand Tebowmania to becoming a huge fan. In the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine, columnist Tim Keown describes how Tebow deftly managed a public appearance that impressed and delighted all in attendance. And teammates such as Andre Goodman are saying things like, “Tim has a presence about him that I’ve never been around before. I’ve played with some Hall of Fame players before that weren’t close to the aura that this guy has.”

Each of these examples support the belief that Tebow possesses a high quality leadership skill set. Though as mentioned earlier, he does have doubters. And while they don’t question his ability to lead people, they do question his individual performance. They say his athletic skill set was a perfect match to the system used in college against inferior competition but in the NFL, the systems used are typically more complex and the athletes are all world-class. To date, his individual performances have been, to put it kindly, a mixed bag. And after his latest sub-par performance, his coach would only commit to keeping Tebow as his starting quarterback “for this week.”

This serves as a reminder that it’s not enough to have great character and leadership skills. Those serve as a great foundation and significantly contribute to one’s ability to do great things. However, leadership is about more than getting great results from those you lead. You must also be able to deliver results on the specific responsibilities that you are required to perform. The ability to inspire others and achieve results cannot be understated. If one or both are lacking, things can go downhill in a hurry…just ask the Indianapolis Colts.

For at least another week it’s still Tebow Time. What leadership lessons or observations have become apparent to you while looking through the lens of Tebow’s young career?

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