01/25/2014 10:50 am ET Updated Mar 27, 2014

You Don't Have to Be a Quarterback

With Super Bowl XLIII only a week away, we are at the end of the 2013 National Football League season. All during the football season, but especially during the playoffs, there is much talk about the quarterbacks. For last Sunday's A.F.C. championship game, the focus of attention was not so much on the two teams playing, but on the two veteran quarterbacks, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. And the headlines in sports pages across the country on Monday morning were all about whether Manning could win his second Super Bowl ring after sixteen seasons, at age thirty-seven (old for a football player), and after going through multiple neck surgeries in 2011 and having to sit out that entire season.

Last Tuesday (01/21/14), The New York Times had this to say: "The Broncos' Peyton Manning could become the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two franchises. He won Super Bowl XLI in 2007 with the Colts." I would feel better had The Times story read that "Peyton Manning could become the first quarterback to lead his team to victory" and "He led his team to victory in 2007." The quarterback is very important, but the quarterback alone does not win the game; it takes the entire team.

Take, for example, last Sunday's game when Manning and Brady were getting all the attention. A good look at the box scores show the importance of other team members, as well. For example, Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes, one to Jacob Tamme and the other to Demaryius Thomas, for twelve points. Manning had to have someone to throw to in order to complete the passes. The kicker for Denver, Matt Prater, kicked two extra points and four field goals for fourteen points. The quarterback played a major part in moving the team downfield and getting the team in a position for Prater to kick field goals, but the quarterback wasn't even on the playing field when Prater was kicking. The point being that quarterbacks alone don't make a team.

In life all of us need to realize that leaders are very important, but leaders alone in any field of endeavor cannot get the job done. It takes a team: all the members of the executive committee; all the employees of a company; all the members of the church; the entire family; and so forth.

Too many people don't take the role they play as being significant. We see "slackers" in nearly every area of life. Also, some people regard themselves as inferior because they aren't in a prominent leadership role. Granted, it takes a good quarterback to lead the team down the field so the team is in a position for its various members to kick a field goal or an extra point, or for someone to catch a touchdown pass, or for someone to make an end run over the goal line, or what have you. But in the end, it takes a team to win the game. You know the old say: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

As a student at the University of Missouri in a Sociology 101 class, more years ago than I would like to own up to, the teacher put us through a rather simple exercise that taught me a basic truth about human behavior that has made all the difference for me in life, personally and professionally.

The instructor divided the class into four groups of nine people each. He gave each group a project to work on (I have no idea now what our project was), with no special instructions other than to work our way through the project. We were placed in separate rooms, each having a rectangular table with chairs around it. The same thing happened with each group: one person immediately went to the head of the table and took charge, one person volunteered to keep notes, and all the others worked as the leader(s) directed (in one group, as I remember, two people kind of shared being in charge).

Why is this important? We learned that same pattern pretty well holds true with any group of people across the spectrum of life. Whether it is within a family or the larger community, in a small company or a large corporation, in a town council or the United States Congress, in a classroom or among teachers and faculty, in a service club or the P.T.A., in a church or wherever -- leaders will automatically appear, record keepers will come to the fore, public relations personnel will make themselves known, people willing to do the work will be on hand, and so forth.

For individual and community life to reach their fullest capacities, we must all be willing wholeheartedly to fulfill our responsibilities as our natural talents and inclinations automatically awaken and direct. If your inclination is toward being a leader, accept that role humbly and wholeheartedly. If you tend to be a follower, then be a good follower. Or whatever. The important thing is for all of us to be very the best at what our gifts indicate. That's our calling in life. And every calling is significant!