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How Owner Pat Bowlen Created a Winning Culture at the Denver Broncos

Source | LinkedIn : By Sayin Siang

Culture is key to creating long-term sustainable success. As the legendary leadership guru, Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast any day.” 

This Super Bowl marks the Denver Bronco’s eighth Super Bowl, and the seventh under the ownership of Pat Bowlen, who bought the team in 1984. In 2014, due to Alzheimer’s, Bowlen stepped down from the management of the team.  I asked my friend, Brittany Bowlen, to help us understand her father’s legacy and the culture that her father had fostered and stewarded.

Sanyin Siang: Brittany, can you tell us a bit about the culture of the Denver Broncos and how your dad fostered this?

Brittany Bowlen: The culture that my father instilled within the Broncos starts with the fact that people are his priority. Every day, he consciously chose to park in the back of the Denver Broncos’ training facility and walk through the training, equipment and operations areas before going to his office. He always wanted to have the pulse of the team and understood that these departments, while maybe not the most prominent, were vital to the success of the Broncos.

‘It’s not about me’ is a phrase that I’ve heard my father say countless times—he always wanted others to get the credit and always respected their opinions, regardless of title. I believe the positive, inclusive culture that he built within his team helped it earn the respect of this community and the entire league.

Siang: By respecting everyone everyone on the team, your dad also earned everyone’s deep respect. He also enabled them to perform at their best. You once shared a quote with me that I found compelling – “Other people’s thoughts are more important than your own assumptions.” Can you tell us a bit more what this means and why it’s so important to the team’s success?

Bowlen: I think this idea—putting others’ thoughts before our own assumptions—is one of the most thoughtful things my father modeled throughout his ownership. To fulfill this, at the core for him was conducting himself with honesty, integrity and humility at all times. He tried to surround himself with good people, trusted them and provided them the resources to be successful.

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