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A Lesson in Leadership from Tom Brady


We are midway through this year’s NFL playoffs; a few weeks away from the NFL’s February 3rd Super Bowl matchup. While we are unsure who will be playing in the big game, one player seems like a safe bet, but not because of a record-shattering offense or a standout defense. No, that player is 41 years old, in his 19th year in the league, and his name is Tom Brady.

While most of us haven’t played organized sports since childhood, we can learn a lot about what it takes to be a leader from the example Tom Brady has set for nearly two decades. The “Super Bowl” in Brady’s life is just that, a win at football’s highest level – but what is your “Super Bowl?” For those of us with jobs that take place in offices, as opposed to the gridiron, the “Super Bowl” could be meeting projections or a large project. In whatever challenge we may face, the culminated effort of a group of people or team is often what determines whether you succeed or fail. Leaders affect outcomes. It’s what they do. Brady is no exception, and you can improve your leadership skills by taking a page from his playbook.

Leaders Come from Anywhere

What holds many of us back in the realm of leadership is our self-confidence. Often, people don’t view themselves as leaders, and because of this, are content to let others take charge. We all have a preconceived notion of how a leader looks, acts, talks, works, and dresses. If we don’t fit the charismatic mold or speak in the way we feel a leader should, many never consider the positives that they bring to the table.

Out of college, Tom Brady did not fit the mold of a typical NFL quarterback. His scouting report dogged him for having a weak arm, and emphasized his lack of athleticism, citing his 5.28 40-yard dash time. Intangibles like these dropped Brady to the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft – an experience he’s said, that made him cry.

Almost twenty years later, who would have thought that the same former 6th round pick would lead the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl rings.

Leaders Overcome

Whether the primary tool you use at work is a computer or a football helmet, you will face challenges in your career. Sometimes, approaching deadlines can feel an awful lot like an approaching defensive lineman, closing in for a sack to end the game. Occasionally, someone on our team drops the ball, whether that be losing a sale or in Tom’s case, literally fumbling the football. Unexpected events in the workplace happen. It’s how you react to them that defines you as a leader.

Next time you face an unfortunate event in the workplace, channel your inner Tom Brady under duress. Down 28-3 midway through the third quarter of the 2017 Super Bowl, it looked like Brady and his Patriots had finally met their match. The remainder of the game is a testament to the leadership of Brady, who would go on to force overtime and then a win in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

In recent seasons, Brady and the Patriots have battled injuries to players who were key to the Patriots success. Competing and winning with an incomplete team is a sign of a great football team. Good leaders dig deep with themselves and bring out the best in others when situations are less than ideal. In the workforce, unexpected departures are a common occurrence too. Leaders pick up the slack and encourage those around them when times are less than perfect.

Leaders Sacrifice

Often, the hardest part of leadership is taking the things that you don’t want to do and doing them anyway. Things like working weekends, coming in early and leaving late are never popular. You will be far more respected for making these sacrifices, as opposed to forcing them on someone else. It will show that you hold yourself responsible for both the successes and failures of whatever organization you are leading. You allow those under you to learn this responsibility so that when they are leading, they remember the example you’ve set.

Tom Brady exemplifies this most notably through his bank account. At this point in his career, Brady is often regarded as the greatest ever to put on an NFL uniform. Over his career, he has never been the highest-paid player in the NFL. Moreover, his 2018 salary isn’t in the top half of the entire league. However, this is how Brady wins championships in a league that caps the salaries of players. Tom has regularly sacrificed his own salary, so the Patriots have more money to spend on other players.

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