Richard Lugar And Peyton Manning

We in Indianapolis have had somewhat the same thing happen to two major local figures with national reputations. Both Richard Lugar and Peyton Manning are leaving the positions where they gained national prestige and local reverence. Let’s take a moment and see what this linkage of Lugar and Manning tells us about succession, leaving, and key leaders.

First, Lugar could learn from Manning. By now it’s clear that Manning handled the organizational decision to end his Colts career with grace and class. Lugar should seek to show the same qualities.

Second, both leaders have had and still have enormous personal identity wrapped up in the positions where they won most of their fame. This tight connection between identity and position is not always healthy. Indeed, in my view, that is the predominent source of Lugar’s defeat. In a seminar on Manning and leadership, I pointed out that this connection was also part of the reason why the Colts had such difficulty winning more than one Super Bowl with Manning as quarterback.

Third, my comment on Lugar’s identity/position connection as the driver of his defeat can be linked to his lengthy tenure in office. In 2012, Lugar was a US Senator for as long as Peyton Manning has been alive, 36 years. Again, like the identity/position connection, on the face of it such longevity might be assumed a good thing. A closer look, though, shows it can be dangerous, too.

Fourth, and again we may point to the numeric fact of 36 years for this, Manning was probably more tightly aligned with the fundamental followers of his leadership–the fans. My use of the word “fundamental” should begin to tip you off to a further point. Manning’s teammates, colleagues, peers, and so forth were not his fundamental followers. His fans were, and they were the focal point of his farewell speech in Indianapolis.

Lugar seems to have lost sight of his fundamental followers, the voters. He appears to have drifted in almost invisible increments away from the voting public and citizenry of Indiana and toward the rarified culture of high national office. 

Just a few thoughts.