4 Leadership Lessons I Learned From the Indianapolis Colts (Part 1)

Greg Surratt: “I was given a peek behind the curtain, and I liked what I saw.”

leadership lessons

Church leadership lessons can be learned from a variety of sources, including the National Football League. Knowing that I am a huge Denver Broncos fan, my friend Clyde Christensen, quarterbacks coach for the Indianapolis Colts, invited me to attend Peyton Manning’s first game back in Indy.

I stayed with Clyde and his family, did the chapel for the Colts players and coaches, and sat in the family section for the game. The only stipulation was that I couldn’t wear orange and cheer too loudly for the opposing team.

Actually, I behaved myself quite well.

And I became a Colts fan along the way.

Surely you can cheer for more than one team, can’t you? Honestly, I always have. My two favorite teams were the Broncos and whoever was playing the Raiders. Now I have three favorites.

I didn’t become a Colts fan because of the way they held serve and beat the Broncos on that October Sunday night. Hardly. In my heart of hearts, I was pulling for orange, even though I was wearing blue.

My newfound allegiance was fueled more by what I saw off the field than on. I was given a peek behind the curtain, and I liked what I saw.

I’d like to share some things I learned that weekend. It made me a better leader. I’m hoping it will do the same for you.

4 Things I Learned About Being a Leader From the Indianapolis Colts

1. It’s my job to contribute to a healthy culture.

Getting the culture right is more important than getting the plays right.

Coach Clyde told me that they work as hard on the culture as they do the plays, because when the culture is right, there is a sense of team.

Teams play through adversity.

Teams know that busted plays will get fixed.

When the culture is wrong, adversity will expose it.

Unexpected storms will happen. (He actually used another, far shorter for word “unexpected,” but I think you get his point).

If the culture is good, they will survive. If the culture is not good, teams unravel.

I asked: “What can upset a healthy culture?”

Too many “bad apple” transfers from a sick “everyman for themselves” culture. Press or family-fueled, “me-first attitude” among the players.

What do the Colts value in their culture?

a. Unity based on trust, loyalty and respect. Regardless of their position in the organization, everyone is treated with respect. I saw All Pros go out of their way to high-five facilities guys.

b. Passion. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth being passionate about.

c. Perseverance. Coach Clyde called it grit. Grit could be defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” Individuals high in grit are able to maintain their determination and motivation over long periods despite experiences with failure and adversity. Essentially, the grittier person is focused on winning the marathon, not the sprint.

Question: How committed am I to building a healthy culture?

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Greg Surratt
Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the earliest adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, SC, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development. Greg is also a founding board member of the Association of Related Churches.