The Carolina Panthers are the overwhelming favorites to win Super Bowl 50 over the Denver Broncos, and that is largely in part to the franchise's leader Cam Newton. He has been nothing short of brilliant all season, much deserving of the Most Valuable Player award for taking an offense that few believed could match-up against most defenses and challenging the entire team to strive for greatness.
It worked. The Panthers are now Super Bowl bound.
Being a favorite is somewhat new for the Panthers. During the regular season, the Newton-led team was undefeated at 10-0 and listed as an underdog against the 3-7 Dallas Cowboys. Yet, Cam Newton remained confident throughout the season, which makes him the ultimate leader for the franchise.
1. He doesn't mind the haters.
Leaders do not necessarily care as to how they are perceived by the public. They are driven by results and are concerned about capturing the attention and buy-in from their surrounding team members.
Newton had his fair share of haters this season, whether it was his antics after a first down or touchdown, dancing with a "Dab" or grinning so wide you could see each one of his flawless teeth.
The playfulness was perturbing to some. His teammates loved it.
"He's very charismatic," said backup quarterback Derek Anderson during the 2015 regular season. "His smile, his energy, passion for the game. He plays the game like a kid, which is instrumental for everybody. You see his energy, it's hard not to match it."
2. Leaders instill fear in competitors.
The best leaders not only grab the ire and devotion from their tribe, they create fear in the minds of competitors. Cam Newton has certainly accomplished all of the above.
"He's throwing the ball amazing right now," said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. "And you know what he can do with his legs. He's the best of both worlds, he's probably the most dangerous [quarterback] in the NFL right now."
That is high praise from a key player in a competitor's franchise, tasked to shut you down in the most important test of the season -- the Super Bowl. Calling your competitor the most dangerous is a sign of respect, but also an exhibit of fear.
Cam Newton, as leader of the Panthers, has been able to do it all, and keep a smile on his face throughout.
3. Newton, like all leaders, effectively deals with adversity.
The beginning of the year started out very grim for the Panthers quarterback. The man billed as his top wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, tore his ACL and was deemed out for the season.
Newton had to rely on others to pick up the void left behind with Benjamin's absence. Benjamin was Newton's favorite target in 2014, with 146 balls thrown in his direction.
Instead of folding, Newton rose to the moment, accepting all challenges, and focusing on tight end Greg Olsen, along with a very young receiving core that included rookie Devin Funchess.
"A lot of people can't figure out where a lot of this offensive success comes from, given that there is not a bunch of big name guys on the roster," said Panthers center Ryan Kalil after the Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals, earning the team a trip to San Francisco for Super Bowl 50.
4. Leaders know it's not about quick grits.
Newton knows that his team's struggle to the top has been real, but he never folded.
"I'm excited," said Newton after the Panthers' win over the Cardinals. "It was a process. It wasn't going to be--what did I say--instant grits, quick grits. It was going to be process like long-cooked collard greens. I think those collard greens are brewing right now. You can smell it from 100 miles away."
There goes that wily personality again.