Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from the Super Bowl

This week my travels found me first in Atlanta, where I got to watch Super Bowl LIII with Chris Stuart, CEO of HSF Affiliates. After Atlanta and a victorious Patriots celebration, I flew to Northern California and finally, I reflect on my week from (somewhat) sunny Southern California, where I’m in alignment sessions, film shoots and meetings.

But let’s return to the East Coast for a while and talk about leadership lessons from the Super Bowl. As you may know, this past Sunday the New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl. The franchise is now tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins in the 53-year history of this epic American sporting tradition.

While on paper, the number of wins may be the same, what differentiates these two football franchises is that every Super Bowl win by the Patriots is credited to the same coach and quarterback. Yes, you read that right. Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are the only two constants leading a team that has now made it to nine Super Bowls. This is a record most football followers believe will never be attained again.

And on a side note as a lifelong fan of football, I’ve never seen so many Tom Brady jerseys as I did on Sunday when I scanned the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and its estimated 70,081 Super Bowl attendees. The stadium was a veritable sea of 12s—Brady’s number—and it seemed like every other person was wearing a Brady jersey.

Anyway, back to the game. If real estate is about location, location, location then football’s most lofty achievement in its history is about leadership, leadership, leadership. (A convenient twist for our Thoughts on Leadership series.)

Leaders are often characterized by how well they inspire others, delegate when necessary and also by the examples they set. So, let’s evaluate these two leaders by that criteria.

Belichick is considered by many, if not most, as the greatest NFL coach of all time because of how deftly he delegates. Brady is called by most football aficionados as the greatest quarterback of all time or the G.O.A.T. (“Greatest of All Time.”) His status is due in large part to how well he inspires others and leads by example.

The indispensable quality that is the thread between the achievements of Belichick and Brady is exceptional and unmistakable leadership.

First, let’s consider the quarterback position, which is an assignment that relies on solid leadership. Even though the coach is the ultimate leader of any football team, the quarterback is often likened to a coach on the field.

As New England’s resident coach on the field, Brady leads by example, which is a requirement we’ve identified as necessary for any leader. He possesses legendary calm on the field while in the midst of so-called battle and is impeccably devoted to his fitness and preparedness. He is also renowned for bringing out the best in his teammates, displaying humility and always professing the importance of teamwork. For example, Brady famously took less compensation, giving up an estimated $60 million in his career with discounted contracts, so his team could acquire other players of value.

Brady, however, is an extension of his team’s ultimate leader, his coach. Should Brady not be willing to be a disciple or follower of his coach, then the winning alchemy that is required for repeated championships would be undermined.

For his part, Coach Belichick epitomizes the characteristics of great leaders: He’s an effective communicator and a tireless learner. Coach Belichick was forever influenced by watching his father coach at the United States Naval Academy, one of the world’s greatest citadels for leadership development.

In addition to figuring out how his father dissected the game of football, Belichick is also devoted to studying and learning about the lives of other great leaders throughout history. For instance, Belichick looks to Paul Brown, (the co-founder and first coach of the Cleveland Browns, a team which now sports his name) as a shining example of leadership and excellence.

In addition to a constant penchant for learning, effective communication is another staple of successful leadership. Belichick is renowned for delivering what is arguably the single-most iconic leadership message in all of sports: “Do your job!”

This profoundly simple yet simply profound call-to-action is monumentally resonant because Belichick has first painstakingly educated every member of his team and coaching staff, so each team member understands precisely what “doing your job” entails. Belichick also underscores how it’s not only about doing your job but also understanding how your performance at your job affects the jobs of others. This interplay is critical to the Belichick coaching philosophy. Therefore, his leadership creates both individual and team responsibility and complete clarity.

Belichick and Brady stand at the forefront of the “do your job” mantra. Both are known for their interminable willingness to do their job then figure out how to do their job even better than they did the day before. This requires an unending eagerness to learn and prepare. These qualities—collaboration, accountability, clarity, preparedness, a willingness to learn—create a winning team culture. Everyone knows they must do their job or be gone.

When comparing the scoreboard, other organizations will point to what a great coach or incredible quarterback the Patriots have and say that these two things alone can explain the team’s astonishing success. This rationalization is easy; it’s much simpler to explain away lesser success by attributing it to the overwhelming athleticism or intelligence of player and coach, rather than conceding that the differentiation may very well be due to leadership. While some teams have a single, stand-out leader, the Patriots are blessed with two—Belichick and Brady. Fortuitously for their fervent football fans, they each landed in Foxborough, Massachusetts nineteen years ago and have been leading—and winning—ever since.

So, what’s the message? In the end, it comes down to discipline, teamwork and a profound willingness to do your job. Then, when you do it and win, you must still think about how you can do your job even better tomorrow. James Harrison, two-time Super Bowl champion, former Defensive Player of the Year and former Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker (who played one season with the Patriots and Brady) said it best in a recent Super Bowl LIII interview. (Watch the full interview here.

He recalled that when he first arrived in New England, he wanted to “hate [Tom Brady] when I got there.” He thought the hype surrounding Brady couldn’t possibly be real. Then, he watched him in action and Harrison’s entire opinion shifted. The former Steelers’ linebacker noted that Brady was just as friendly with him as he was with teammates who he’d been playing with for a decade or members of the practice squad. “He’s very consistent and that’s why guys love him,” Harrison said, adding that he’s never seen anyone with Brady’s incredible study habits. In the span of a season, Harrison recognized exactly why Brady finds success year after year, and when asked during the interview if he thought Brady was the greatest quarterback in the history of football, Harrison replied without hesitation, “Best quarterback, no question.”

Thoughts on Leadership: The Spirit of the Underdog

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Lancaster, PA to meet with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty leadership team. Lancaster is one of the oldest inland towns in the United States, an area rich with history and urban charm.

From Pennsylvania, it was off to St. Petersburg, FL to attend Real Living Connection 2018. I was grateful to deliver a keynote presentation to the group on artificial intelligence and the importance of staying relevant. Bob McAdams, president of Real Living, and my good friend Allan Dalton, Real Living COO and former realtor.com CEO, are doing a fantastic job keeping the brand not only on top of industry trends but also ahead of the game.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Prepare to Succeed

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Northern California and next in Phoenix, where I’m preparing for the upcoming Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices 2017 Sales Convention. Our theme for convention is “Unleashing Your Potential,” and the topic was very much on my mind as I watched the NFL Combine this week.

The event, this year held Feb. 28 – March 6, brings together more than 300 of the best college football players from across the nation to participate in the National Invitational Camp in Indiananapolis, IN. Top executives, coaching staffs, player personnel departments and medical personnel from all 32 NFL teams are in attendance and evaluate the players ahead of the upcoming NFL Draft. The NFL Combine is basically an intense, physical and mental grind, a four-day job interview for these hopeful athletes and a critical step in helping them achieve their dream of playing in the NFL.  

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Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: The Mindset of a Champion

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Las Vegas to speak with HomeServices Lending CEO and president Maureen Sammon and her team at HomeServices Lending’s Elite Producer Event. Next, it was off to Tucson to speak with our Real Living Real Estate network members for the annual Real Living Connection conference.

At each event, I spoke about the importance of a positive mindset for effective leadership and the topic couldn’t be more top of mind than after this past Sunday’s historic Super Bowl LI game.

As all of you know, the Patriots won the Super Bowl in a stunning overtime victory, claiming the Vince Lombardi Trophy I wrote about last week. The game—which many claim was the greatest Super Bowl played—boiled down to tactical errors made by the Atlanta Falcons and decisive execution on the part of the New England Patriots and their on-the-field leader, Tom Brady, and off-the-field leader, Bill Belichick.

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Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Winning is A Habit

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me first in Irvine for a meeting with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties CEO Mary Lee Blaylock and the California Properties team then off to Dallas to meet with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty Texas agent Russell Rhodes, leader of the Russell Rhodes team, PenFed Realty Texas Broker/president Rick Wylie and the entire PenFed Realty Texas team. After that I flew to Detroit and spoke with agents, managers and leadership at Real Living Kee Realty. For each meeting, I delivered several principles for success, specific ideas to follow in order to win.

It’s no surprise winning is on my mind because I just received a text from my good friend and former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers as well as five-time Super Bowl champion, Dwight “The Catch” Clark, who’s on his way to Houston for Super Bowl Media Week appearances. Each summer, as soon as pre-season begins, teams have one Wildly Important Goal (WIG) in mind: Make it to the Super Bowl and then, win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. This trophy—a football resting atop a pedestal that measures 22 inches and 7 pounds of sterling silver glory—is only given to the team that has proven to be the very best in the world.  

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Talking Inspiration with Dwight Clark: Preparation and Opportunity

A word from Gino Blefari, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices …

This post is the first in our new “Talking Inspiration” blog series by Dwight Clark, former All-Pro wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers. I was lucky enough to be a 49ers fan in the 1980s and watched my pal Dwight play for my favorite team. Dwight is a five-time Super Bowl champion—two as a player and three in management—but who knows if his great run would’ve ever happened if it wasn’t for that incredible Sunday in January of 1982 … that’s when “Too Tall” Jones and what seemed like the entire Dallas Cowboys defense was chasing quarterback Joe Montana and Dwight was trying to lose Cowboys’ defensive back Everson Walls running across the back of Candlestick Park’s end zone. What happened next has been since memorialized in sports history books forevermore: Dwight caught the winning touchdown pass thrown by Montana and the 49ers won the NFC Championship Game that year. Today, “The Catch” is known as the #7 most memorable play in the NFL and #1 for the 49ers. Dwight’s “Talking Inspiration” posts will provide ongoing perspectives about tackling challenges—in sports, business and life—and I hope you enjoy these pieces of wisdom from a great man, a true football legend and my friend. – Gino 

By Dwight Clark

When I reflect on my career playing with the San Francisco 49ers, one word comes to mind: fortunate. And fortune, as I define it, is the place where preparation meets opportunity. If you think about your life’s most extraordinary featswhether it’s winning Super Bowls or winning business—yes, there’s always some measure of luck involved but there’s also a whole lot of training, planning and hard work that has to happen long before luck arrives. Then, if you’re fully prepared at the exact moment luck finally does ring, you can pick up the phone and answer its call.

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Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: What it Means to Win

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA, where it seems as if the entire state is gearing up to host Super Bowl 50 on Sunday. And while my 49ers didn’t quite make it to the big game, it does take place right on my home turf, at Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara.

If you look at the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, you’ll know Super Bowl 50 should be an interesting contest of the league’s two best defenses that pits prodigy quarterback Cam Newton of the Panthers against veteran quarterback, Peyton Manning of the Broncos. It’s also an intriguing matchup when you take into account the rumors circulating that this Super Bowl game might be Peyton’s last. In fact, browse any sports news website and you’ll be met with a hailstorm of headlines debating this very question. Will he or won’t he? Would a Broncos win on Sunday change everything?

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#05 Thoughts On Leadership: Leadership Springs from Nowhere

By Gino Blefari

Leadership can spring from unexpected people in unexpected places. I was struck by this fact Sunday watching the Seahawks and Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. This incredible game matched all the hype, with lead changes, hard-hitting and dramatic plays.

Both teams’ stars came out to play with quarterbacks Tom Brady (the game’s eventual MVP) and Russell Wilson orchestrating scoring drives involving key players; and the defenses flexing their might at important junctures.

This was pro football’s biggest stage in front of more than 70,000 screaming fans and the largest audience in American television history (114.4 million) – certainly no place for the meek.

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How Winning a Super Bowl Relates to Real Estate

By Sean Cawley

Early last week, I had the privilege of attending Super Bowl XLIX Media Day, an event that took place not far from my Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties office in Phoenix, AZ. What an amazing way to kick off the exciting days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday! Media outlets from all over the world were in attendance, and informed reporters were able to ask any question they wanted to team members from the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. I listened in on several of the interviews and noticed a common theme in many of the players’ answers when asked why they were playing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

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