What We Learned About Leadership From Tom Brady Winning The Super Bowl?
Love him or not, Tom Brady encompasses many traits that have people wondering how he’s managed to score six Super Bowl wins and set a dizzying array of NFL records, including most touchdown passes. While his prowess on the field seems undeniable, his impact on people outside of the sport looking to improve their game in their given fields look to Brady for lessons on leadership and what they can learn from the exceptional quarterback. Brady has endured scandals and setbacks, but he’s tenaciously battled for his victories in and out of the stadium. So, what is it about this spirited QB that has so many CEOs marveling at his leadership success?
Assemble the Team: YOUR Team
One of the most recent leadership traits that Brady has demonstrated is his knack for recruitment. Typically, team management would ‘encourage’ their players, even their star quarterback, to stick to their craft and leave the recruiting process to the coaches and owners. Brady, however, has seldom been shy about voicing his own opinions. Having departed from the New England Patriots to play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady might have left the recruiting process to management, but he didn’t.
Brady doesn’t just have an eye for talent; he has an ability to recognize talent that complements his own. Brady convinced the Buccaneers to recruit several wide receivers that weren’t on the team’s radar. Brady lobbied the team to pick up players who shared his drive to achieve success; not only did these wide receivers prove themselves time and again throughout the season, they were responsible for most of the touchdown catches in the most recent Super Bowl win.
The lesson for CEOs is this: don’t rely solely on HR to hunt down and attract talent to your firm or company. Survey your own playing field and scout out professionals who share your drive and possess skills that complement your own. You have a repertoire of skills that you bring to the table, but are there abilities that aren’t represented by your executive team? Take an active role in hiring talent to your management team so that you get players who aren’t just proficient in the game; they are in tune with your game.
He Plays the Part
Some of the greatest leaders in history seem designed to have played the role of leader. If Shackleton worried that his ship’s crew wouldn’t make it out of the Antarctic alive, his crew certainly wasn’t aware of his fears. Was there ever a king who played the role of monarch more astutely than Queen Elizabeth I? Like some of the greatest leaders, Brady understands that he has to play the role of leader–and that means conveying calm confidence under pressure.
It’s not a matter of denying the existence of heat when you’re walking through the fire; it’s assuring your team that you’ll make it through the crisis. Brady captains his team with cool self-assurance even when under tremendous pressure. Was he born this way? When I was a quarterback in high school, regaining composure and focus after an interception was always the toughest for me. My coach used to say, “a good quarterback has short term memory.” Brady seldom gets rattled. There’s no denying that some people possess some innate leadership skills like this one, but Brady has cultivated his emotional control over the years. To be like Brady, even when feeling doubtful, CEOs must consider their role–don’t let your team see you sweat. Your confidence is apt to be contagious–and people perform better when they’re less fearful.
After twenty years with the Patriots and, arguably, the seat of his comfort zone, Brady signed with the Bucs in 2020. Did anyone really expect him to lead the team to the Super Bowl in his first year as its QB? Brady possesses the trait of adaptability. He’s dynamic. He’s not afraid to get out of that comfort zone and tackle new challenges.
Lots of business leaders prefer to play it safe–and plenty of achieved success by playing it safe, but that doesn’t appear to be Brady’s style as of late. It’s not enough for the football star to adapt; he makes it a goal to adapt and thrive in new situations. Change is challenging for people–even highly experienced leaders. Today’s business leaders have many changes to contend with ranging from the latest political climate and technology advances to supply chain dropped balls and a worldwide pandemic. Without the ability to shift gears quickly, leaders can become mired in old habits that may not serve them well when their playing field changes.
You don’t have to be a football fan to appreciate that Brady embodies leadership talent that today’s CEOs and top executives can learn from. Consider his traits and gameplay as you evaluate your own leadership style and traits. You might never throw like Tom, but you can lead like him and usher your own team to success.
By Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano
President and CEO
Barbachano International (BIP) is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Latin America, & Canada) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets. Since 1992, BIP and its affiliates have served over 50% of Fortune 500 Companies and have been recognized by Forbes as a Top 40 executive search firm. Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. We are supported by our NPAworldwide partner offices in over 50 countries.