Imagine you're a loyal employee, having worked for the same employer for over a decade. You've been through a number of ups and downs, and this year is definitely one of the "downs"--but for reasons out of your control. Still, most--both inside and outside of the organization--recognize you as one of the best things about your company.
Suddenly, your boss calls you in. You've been demoted.
That's essentially what happened to Eli Manning, the New York Giants' star quarterback.
Manning has been the Giants' starting quarterback since 2004. His streak of 210 regular-season starts is the second-longest in NFL history. He is one of only 12 quarterbacks who have won multiple Super Bowls. But the Giants, who are having one of their worst seasons ever with a 2-9 record, recently announced that they wanted to give more playing time to Manning's younger backups, Geno Smith and Davis Webb.
To keep Manning's "games started" streak alive, Giants coach Ben MacAdoo offered him the chance to continue playing the first half of games, before being taken out for the other quarterbacks.
What would Manning do?
Would he go off on a rant to the media? Point out who or what is really to blame for his team's abysmal record? Throw someone under the bus?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you don't know Eli Manning.
Here's what he said, as reported by ESPN:
Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis are given an opportunity to play. My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them. Starting just to keep the streak going and knowing you won't finish the game and have a chance to win it is pointless to me, and it tarnishes the streak. Like I always have, I will be ready to play if and when I am needed. I will help Geno and Davis prepare to play as well as they possibly can.
When I first heard Manning's interview, I couldn't help but think to myself:
Now that's what true leadership looks like.
How to lead effectively
So many today want to be "the leader." But there's just one problem.
They don't really know how to lead.
Those who lead most effectively concern themselves with action, not position. They focus on practicing what they preach, setting the example, and doing great work. They tell their people what they need to hear, when they need to hear it, just as Manning did recently when he told Gino Smith that he's got his back.
Just as Manning has done throughout his career.
Leading effectively also requires emotional intelligence. It's the ability to keep your emotions in check, for your own good and the good of others. It's making emotions work for you, instead of against you.
When I first heard the Giants' decision, I thought it was a mistake. If anyone's earned the right to finish out his career as the starter for his team, it's Manning.
But the more I thought about it, there's wisdom in this approach. Manning isn't going to play forever, and with the Giants' current record, this is a perfect opportunity to allow the next man up the chance to gain some valuable experience.
Nonetheless, it's Manning's humility, his ability take one for the team, that really stands out.
"I'm just proud of the way Eli handles everything," Eli's father, Archie Manning, told ESPN. "Eli is a rock, not too high and not too low. He just rolls up his sleeves and works. I'm proud of him for the way he's handled himself through everything, and he'll deal with this. He doesn't have to like it, but he'll deal with it."
A humble attitude. Setting the right example. Rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.
Thanks, Eli--for reminding us what true leadership looks like.