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  • Writer's pictureRussell Lookadoo

Leadership Implosion

Updated: May 10, 2018

It was painful to watch, and it was on the biggest stage. Cam Newton, quarterback sensation for the Carolina Panthers imploded live on TV. In a few short seconds, he damaged his reputation as a leader and role model. His error, not regulating his emotions and walking (some say storming) out of the Super Bowl post-game press conference.

First a disclaimer, I am a bandwagon Panther’s fan. I did not get my first Panther shirt until November 1, 1993, a full five days after the franchise was awarded to the Carolinas. Given that background, I was excited to watch the team lead by the league MVP play that Sunday evening.

The game did not go as expected, the opposing defense was impressive and overwhelming. Newton was dominated and appeared to single handedly lose the game. This was shocking for a player who rewrote the quarterback record book that season.

In addition to playing at an extraordinary level in 2015, Newton developed a nationwide following for his enthusiasm and leadership. His practice of handing the ball to a child in the stands endeared him to many kids in the Carolinas and across the country. Countless children clamored to wear his #1 jersey and wanted to be just like Cam. Youth league coaches pointed him out as an example

This is what made the implosion so painful. A major part of being an NFL quarterback is leadership. Unfortunately, when you shine in the spotlight, it continues to shine on you even when you are not your best. Leaders are called on to shine not only in performing key objectives, but to serve as an example in doing so. Easily done when things are going your way. But what about those times when the tasks are frustrating, outside forces intervene and the leader does not perform?

After the game, the 26-year-old quarterback faced major failure for the first time in his career. As required by the NFL he sat for the press conference visibly uncomfortable. In terms of his intrapersonal Emotional Quotient (EQ), he was working hard to understand his emotional state. Where he fell short was his ability to regulate what he was feeling completely. To his credit he did not lash out, and make an non-retractable verbal blunder. Instead, he walked out and the media went nuts extracting revenge. The impact? Many parents and coaches will be less reluctant to hold Cam up as a role model. His personal brand value took a hit.

Business leaders generally are not called on to conduct press conferences to discuss their failures. However, they often have to face their team of managers and employees to discuss what happened. Unfortunately, walking out on employees or cutting off contact is worse for that company than a press conference.

Do you know your own Emotional Quotient (EQ)? Are you aware of your own emotions? How well are you self-regulated as stress increases? On the other hand, what is your interpersonal EQ. Are you aware of others’ emotional state and can you modify your own behavior to manage the situation? Are you empathetic?

As a leader how you accomplish your goals is more important that actually achieving them. Knowing, understanding and improving your Emotional Quotient is essential to success leadership. For a football player there is always next season. Your company does not get to start over. Are you another Cam Newton poised to damage your personal and company brand by lacking this knowledge?

Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings over three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank. Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at

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