Win or Lose, Emotional Intelligence Matters

After the Super Bowl on Sunday night, the quarterbacks from each team were bombarded by the media with questions. For Peyton Manning, it was all about whether he would cap his career on a high note. For Cam Newton, the questions reflected his fresh defeat. Whether you're a rookie like Newton, or a seasoned veteran like Manning, it is important to think through how we will respond emotionally whether we win or lose. Let's look a little closer at both players and think through what we can learn from them.


Let's Start with Manning

After his win, we heard Manning repeat again and again what he planned to do, which did not involve releasing any clues of retirement. He gave a lot of credit to Coach Tony Dungy who encouraged him not to make any emotional decisions. Note that this advice came before a Super Bowl victory, because either outcome of the game would affect Manning's emotional decisions in the moment.

In the midst of the rush, you risk saying or doing something that you wouldn't when your emotional state is leveled and you are thinking clearly. In Manning's case, he could be feeling pretty good about his victory and desire to do it again. It's important for him to level emotion and take on a posture of humility in the weeks to come.

Now, Newton

I can't help but sympathize with Newton in some ways. It's early in his career and he had a great run this season. Stats and predictions for a victory pointed his way, yet just as he said in his brief interview after the game, “They just played better than us.” From his body language (hood up, eyes down) and his short answers, it was obvious that Newton was emotionally defeated.

No, he probably shouldn't have walked out of his interview, however, I think his emotional response could have been worse. Perhaps for Newton, at this point in his life and early in his career, the best thing he could do to avoid an emotional reaction was to just walk away. This was his immediate reaction. How he lets this loss affect him and his leadership moving forward will be crucial.

What this Means To You as a Leader

Sometimes things are going to go your way and you will win. The question becomes, how are you going to display your victory?

One of they key characteristics that attracts followers to a leader is humility. Winning with grace is a very attractive leadership attribute.

Humility can be disregarded at times because it is misrepresented as lacking toughness and grit. However, in an article in the Military Review, authors Joseph Doty and Dan Gerdes say this is not the case. They describe a humble leader as lacking arrogance, not aggressiveness. Humility can even carry a spiritual tone, since the leaders activities are seen as free of ego and self-aggrandizement. Peyton Manning may have the title of 2x Super Bowl Champion and leader of all-time passing yards, however, his posture of humility over the years is what attracted his fans and followers.

And then there are times when things are not going to go your way and you are going to lose. The question then becomes, how are you going to show grace in defeat?

Nobody likes a sore loser. Just look at what happened to Donald Trump in New Hampshire when he displayed poor character as he spoke about his loss in Iowa last week. His poll numbers started to drop, so much so that the Wall Street Journal says he must change his message to avoid another primary disaster.

The question is not if you are going to have a setback in life. The real question is when are you going to have a setback in life, and how do you respond when you do?

In the emotional intelligence realm, the trait that is needed by leaders is called resiliency. Leaders need to have an ability to recover, to get back to their original form when things do not go their way.

It will be interesting to see how Cam Newton recovers from losing the Super Bowl and how he'll channel this experience to shape his leadership for the next season.

What can you do?

  1. Picture yourself in the moment after you succeeded and then again as if you failed. How would you hope you'd react in either circumstance? How do you plan to respond? Do you know yourself well enough to know when you are in control or when you just need to walk away? Think about these things.
  2. Ask trusted mentors or coaches for insight. They will consider the situation in a way you may not have based on their past experiences. They will also be honest about how you may react, because they know you well. Make sure you really listen to them and consider what they share.
  3. Write out your plan and immediate response whether you win or lose. Think through your stance and posture as well. Stick to this script. This way, you don't risk saying or doing anything you didn't mean.


Identify the next big moment in your career or in your life. Think about the questions above and write out a plan of action whether you win or lose. We'd love to hear from you, so don't forget to comment below.