Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry listens to a question during a campaign stop in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (Charlie Riedel/AP)

But then, if Perry or any other candidate really wanted to mimic Tebow style, he or she would have to forego traditional campaigning and embrace risk. The real Tebow playbook reads like this:

*Confront opponents with graceful words.

*Rebound from excruciating losses.

*Focus on execution.

*Believe in yourself, but remain humble.

*Say less about what you stand against and more about what you stand for.

*Pay less attention to the well-heeled donor who believes it is better to get (and get) than to give.

*Don’t overreact when poll numbers collapse and criticism increases.

Several GOP presidential hopefuls have signaled that they planned to take at least a page or two from the Tebow playbook, but none has really followed through. For example, Newt Gingrich says he is continuing to run a gracious campaign, but in fact he’s reneged on those intentions since becoming the target of attack ads.

Perry entered the race a Tebow in his exciting fourth-quarter arrival, but the governor has yet to regain his front-runner status. While Tebow’s comeback bids, too, have fallen short recently, I believe he will succeed in the end — if not in the playoffs, then certainly off the field. Whether the governor can regain what he’s lost during this run, however, I’m not so sure.

As the young Tebow has displayed in both his wins and his losses, leading means being prepared to serve — and sometimes, to fail.

As a fellow follower of Jesus, of course I recognize that the essence of Tebow lies in what he believes.

Many are disconcerted or even enraged by his convictions, but I hope even they won’t dismiss the leadership lessons Tebow’s football career offers. Tebow’s wins to date teach that innovative thinking can trump more orthodox methods.

Tebow’s three consecutive losses show how fan support soars and wanes. But losing well matters, too, and the admirable way Tebow’s handled his recent losses ought to be a model for Perry if, as expected, he does not become his party’s presidential nominee.

Judy Howard Ellis is a Dallas-based creative consultant for entrepreneurs and the author of “Fall of the Savior-King,” a fantasy novel inspired by the Book of Genesis. Previously, she was features editor at the Denver Post. Follow her on Twitter: @JudyHowardEllis