3 Things Startup CEOs Can Learn From Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson

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Russell Wilson

This Sunday, over 110 million Americans are expected to tune in to watch a 6'5", 250-lb. passing legend duke it out against a 5'11", late-pick upstart. Experts are divided over the outcome, but most agree it will be a pretty fantastic game to watch.

For the executives and entrepreneurs in the stands, it will also be a great opportunity to see two completely different leadership styles in action.

The current Super Bowl storyline getting attention in the press is the match-up between Peyton Manning — arguably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game — and the Seahawk's defense, ranked first in the league in nearly every category. 

But according to former NFL quarterback Tom Flick , the real wildcard in this year's Super Bowl is Seattle QB Russell Wilson, a "startup quarterback" whose mobile and scrappy approach is challenging the more traditional, top-down quarterback model. It's a leadership style Flick believes is becoming increasingly important to emulate as traditional management structures become obsolete within the startup world.

Here are three lessons startup executives can learn from Wilson's fast and creative style of leadership:

1. Be willing to take big risks when the opportunity arises.  One thing that makes Wilson so dangerous, Flick argues, is his willingness to run the ball himself when he sees an opening. " He’s unconventional, adaptable. He’s got a great arm and can run like a deer, which has him adapting on the move, and this makes him an exciting and dangerous competitor," he says. 

"Many of today’s younger leaders tend to be more unconventional, open to change and questioning authority," Flick continues. "This gives them an agility that, when they take big risks, presents the opportunity for huge gains."

2. Don't be afraid to depart from tradition.   Wilson is  " a new brand of athlete that looks at the world completely differently," Flick says, and embodies the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that is the bread and butter of the startup world.  "[T]he traditional management structure we see in most companies today isn’t enough to keep you in business," Flick says. Instead, they need leaders  who are willing "to step outside their box to try something new, act on things they can see need to be done, or do something differently from 'the way things are done around here.'" 

3. Assume your job is always on the line. Part of what drives Wilson to take bold moves and throw the playbook out the window is an understanding that no matter how long he's been with the team, his job is never a given. "This is cultural, coming from the Seahawks coach, Coach [Pete] Carroll," Flick says. "In his organization, if you’ve been a starter for five years, your seat isn’t a given. You may be replaced by a kid who had a better week in practice."

Executives should constantly seek ways to improve themselves and look for new ways to bring value to the company. After all, there will always be a hungry new player trying to get off the bench and into the game.

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