Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from the GOAT

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting the week with my typical Monday WIG calls. On Tuesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy weekly executive team meeting and for the rest of the week, I planned for the upcoming HomeServices of America monthly CEO leadership meeting.

Of course, all week I was energized by Sunday night’s Super Bowl, when Tom Brady, in his first year as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, won his seventh Super Bowl championship.

I’ve written about Tom Brady before—his incredible study habits, his friendliness toward all teammates—but for this post, I want to talk about Brady’s specific leadership characteristics and his distinct ability to lift others to greatness.

Earlier this year I had a conversation with my dear friend and mentor, Allan Dalton, who is a huge Tom Brady fan. He told me if you took Tom Brady’s career, the first 10 years and the second 10 years, he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer for his first 10 years and also a first-ballot Hall of Famer for his second 10 years. After the Super Bowl I called Allan and told him that Tom Brady will be the only football player ever who has had three distinct first-ballot Hall of Fame careers, and I can prove it to you.

If you took Tom Brady’s 21-year career and divided it into seven-year stints, every seven years he did enough to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer. His first seven matches up perfectly with Troy Aikman’s career. His next seven matches up perfectly with Dan Marino’s career. And believe it or not, his last seven matches up with my own Forty Niner Joe Montana’s career. Let’s look at the stats:

Troy Aikman Phase: Tom Brady’s 2000-2006 Career vs. Troy Aikman’s Career

  • Division Titles: 5 vs. 6
  • Super Bowl Titles: 3 vs. 3
  • Super Bowl MVP: 2 vs. 1
  • Regular Reason MVP 0 vs. 0

Dan Marino Phase: Tom Brady’s 2007-2013 Career vs. Dan Marino’s Career

  • Division Titles: 6 vs. 5
  • Super Bowl Appearances: 2 vs. 1
  • Regular Season MVP: 2 vs. 1
  • Pass Touchdown Leader: 2 vs. 3

Joe Montana Phase: Tom Brady’s 2014-Present Vs. Joe Montana’s Career

  • Super Bowl Titles: 4 vs. 4
  • Super Bowl MVP: 3 vs. 3
  • Regular Season MVP: 1 vs. 2

And to what can we attribute such an extraordinary career? Leadership. Here are seven traits that make Tom Brady an outstanding leader:

He doesn’t break under pressure, instead, he gets stronger. The reason people call Brady the GOAT is because his concentration increases, and he rises to a new level of excellence at precisely the right moment.

He works hard. Brady said: “I just love working hard. I love being part of a team; I love working toward a common goal.”

He is always prepared. In order to be fully prepared for the Super Bowl, Tom Brady, who lives in a 30,000 square foot home in Tampa Bay, (which you’d think would have plenty of room for him to go off and prepare) had his entire family move out of the house for 12 days so he could prepare without any distractions.

He takes his M.E.D.S. In 2017 this is what he told “There are not many people who get to play for as long as I have, and I want to be able to show the next generation that if you follow certain routines and you’re disciplined in certain areas, then you could get to do this, too.” In other words, he takes his M.E.D.S. Tom Brady is a fan of transcendental meditation and practices it with his wife, Giselle Bündchen. As for diet, Brady’s personal chef once revealed his diet is about 80% vegetables.) In terms of sleep, he reportedly is in bed every night by 8:30 p.m. Brady has said: “Proper sleep has helped me to be where I am today as an athlete, and it’s something that I continue to rely on every day.”

He loves what he does largely because of who he gets to do it with. In 2018, Brady appeared on Westwood One Radio and said: “One of the great characteristics that I believe is probably the utmost priority for any leader is something that is pretty simple: It’s really caring deeply about what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it with … the strongest teams I’ve been on are teams that care about one another, that care about aspects of their lives, and ultimately they care about the team and the team goals.”

He leads by example. CBS Sports NFL analyst and former Cardinals kicker Jay Feely recently explained Brady’s leadership is what sets him apart from all other quarterbacks (and players) in the league. “It’s taking hold of a team and saying, ‘I’m going to be the leader. Everything revolves around me. If it goes bad, it’s my fault,’” Feely explained. He also said Brady sets the example for excellence and everyone emulates his actions and drive. “They’re going to put in the time to study, they’re going to put in the time to take care of their body because Brady’s doing it,” Feely said.

He lifts up others. On a nightly basis before this past Super Bowl, Brady would text his entire team: “We will win.” This repetition reinforced Brady’s confidence in his teammates and when a leader is confident, it instills confidence in others.

So, what’s the message? Tom Brady has high standards. Tom Brady yells at teammates. Tom Brady barks at coaches. Tom Brady, I hear is rough at practice. Let’s go! Do it again! Line up, do it again! But what Tom Brady does that makes him a great leader is that he not only holds his teammates to a standard they’re capable of achieving but also demands they achieve it.

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