You never know when you might land that big promotion, or be called on to take a leadership role. The thing is, if you want to be successful in your career, you need to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities. And when it comes to being ready to step up, we can learn a lot from Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.

When Carson Wentz, the team’s starting quarterback, went down with a knee injury before the playoffs, many Eagles fans were ready to throw in the towel: their Super Bowl dreams were now in the hands of a backup. The sentiment was summed up by this N.Y. Daily News article, who dismissed Foles completely, writing this headline: “Eagles’ Super Bowl dreams are over after Carson Wentz suffers season-ending ACL tear.

Of course, Foles not only performed well, he led his team to their first Super Bowl.

Here are five leadership lessons we can learn from Nick Foles.

Be ready to step up

When Nick Foles sat on the sideline during Eagles games, he was always paying attention. Along with his fellow backup quarterback Nate Sufeld, Foles would visualize the game as if he were leading the offense on the field. He would analyze how the defense lined up, and consider what he would do. He would then watch how things actually played out, and looked for lessons.
It was this kind of focus and desire to learn that ensured Foles was ready when he had to take over the starting role. In fact, Sufeld said that Foles seamlessly stepped into the leader role.

“Foles is the one running the video. He is doing the analysis. Carson and I listen, support. We offer tips but Nick controls it. He embraces it,” he told SBNation.

If he had the confidence to do this, it was because he spent the time behind the scenes preparing. Similarly, you never know when your chance may come – all you can do is be ready to take advantage of it. Learn everything you can – even if it’s not your responsibility – stay focused, and keep working hard.

Lean on your team

When you move into a leadership role, you may feel like you are on your own, but the truth is you have a whole team to help you succeed. Foles may just be humble, but after winning the Super Bowl, he was quick to give his teammates the credit.

“I’m fortunate to be a part of a great team, great players, great coaching staff. It wasn’t me. It was everyone around me. The outcome was successful. We are world champs,” he said.

He was right. While Foles played some incredible football, he also had some of the best running backs in the league to help him out. This was the key to the Eagles’ success, and this kind of support and teamwork is necessary for your success too. Even if you are the “boss,” you need your employees to succeed to be able to accomplish your goals. Be humble and open to ideas, and do what you can to help get the best out of them. In the end, you will benefit too.

Understand that it’s ok to be different

You will not have the exact same work style as the manager before you, just like Nick Foles did not have the same exact style as his predecessor. Wentz led the league in touchdown passes, and would rely on the long, aerial game. Foles, meanwhile, throws shorter passes and leans on the team’s running game. Guess what? Both styles were successful. Wentz got the team to the playoffs; Foles helped the team win a Super Bowl.

When a leadership role presents itself, it is usually because you have been successful at your previous role (or management sees something in you that can inspire others). Yes, it’s good to be open to new ideas and to learn from those who were there before you, but that doesn’t mean you need to change your style. Just keep doing what has made you successful.

Stay calm

Nothing inspires confidence like calmness under pressure. This was one of the ways Foles won over and inspired his teammates. Even when it was all on the line, he stayed cool as a cucumber.

“He is the guy who doesn’t get riled up. He stays poised no matter what game it is. I could tell after the first couple drives, he was in the zone. He couldn’t come through on a bigger stage and I am proud of him,” teammate Lane Johnson said.

No matter who you are, at some point you will be under pressure. You will face tight deadlines, and have people doubt your ability, and question your decisions. To be a leader, though, you need to stay calm and confident, and keep believing in yourself.

Embrace failure 

To be able to lead, you need to be ok with failing – that’s a part of life, and it can teach some very valuable lessons. In fact, everyone from President Obama to Michael Jordan credit failure as the catalyst for change and success. Foles is no different.

After winning the Super Bowl (and being named MVP), this is what he said:

“I think the big thing is don’t be afraid to fail. I think in our society today, Instagram, Twitter, it’s a highlight reel. It’s all good things. And when you have a rough day you think life is not as good as that, you’re failing. You know, failure is a part of life. It’s a part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t fallen a thousand times.”


Mia Gordon is a former professional tennis player and a sports broadcaster. Over the course of six years, she has worked for TSN, CBC Olympics, and the Sun News Network. She is now a host, reporter, and producer for Sportsnet and the National Lacrosse League.