Wednesday afternoon’s MODEX keynote featured an often humorous conversation with Peyton and Archie Manning, moderated by Mitch Mac Donald, group editorial director of DC Velocity.
Not only father-and-son, the Mannings are also two of the most iconic public figures in the history of American sports, noted Mac Donald in his introduction.
“Both are past College All-Americans, and both are listed among the 100 Greatest College Football Players of All-Time,” he said. “One was the second pick in the 1971 NFL Draft, while the son, not to be outdone, was selected first in the NFL Draft 27 years later. Both went on to remarkable NFL careers as All-Pros and MVPs. Again, the son may have outdone the dad just a bit with a couple of Super Bowl rings thrown in for good measure.”
The pair answered a series of questions, discussing the life lessons Archie and his wife Olivia instilled in all three of their sons — Peyton and his brothers Cooper and Eli — as well as reminiscing about their football careers. When reflecting on their successes, not only on the field but also in business, media, and philanthropy, the pair stressed the importance of teamwork, preparation, and collaboration.
“If you want to be a good player, you have to have a work ethic; that’s one of the things my Dad instilled in me growing up,” said Peyton Manning, who added that when it comes to leadership being a good listener is important.
“Most of us declare more than we ask, and there’s a saying that words have power, but so does silence,” he continued. “For example, I was always very open to ideas from my teammates, my wide receivers, about our game plan and the plays we were running, and I would change a play based on what they were seeing on the field. It gave those guys a sense of empowerment. So it’s important to share direct two-way communication with key people.”
Continued Peyton Manning: “Being in the huddle you learn a lot about leadership, about being a good listener, and trying to earn the respect of your teammates or co-workers before you become a good leader. Leadership isn’t handed to you with a title. You have to earn that mantle of leadership, and sometimes you can’t earn that right away.”
Additionally, he felt that preparation was a significant key to his success on the field. “I couldn’t outrun anybody, but I never left the field thinking I could have prepared more. That can give you peace of mind at night.”
That preparation was certainly helpful given all the changes in the game, noted Archie Manning, who talked about how much professional football has evolved in the past five decades. “There’s so much more specialization among players and social media; it’s truly different.”
Peyton Manning noted that, like in supply chains, technology is another change that has disrupted football. “There are smart helmets from Riddell that monitor players through practice field and in games,” he said. “It’s making it better and it’s making it safer.”
Adapting to change requires flexibility while sticking to basic, core fundamentals, continued Peyton Manning, who recalled how he learned to throw in a different way after neck injuries. His advice for navigating different situations? “Stick to the things you believe in, but also be flexible and adaptive. You’ve always got to sharpen your skills. Continuous learning is important to stay ahead of the curve.”