Tom Brady is what I describe as the real deal. He’s an authentic leader who understands who he is and never tries to be anyone else, all the while remaining thoughtful, humble, and down to earth in spite of all of his success. There’s no question he’s a determined, disciplined, make-it-happen guy who knows how to win.
This will be his 19th season as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. He won five Super Bowls, four MVP awards and has been selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times. He has the highest combined regular and postseason winning percentage of any quarterback in NFL history. I believe he’s the greatest quarterback of all time.
You might not know that Tom wasn’t always the starting quarterback or how his mindset made that possible. You might even be surprised by the journey Tom took to become the leader you see on the playing field. Tom revealed all this and more during a recent interview on my podcasts .
Before you can be an effective leader, you have to think like a great one. How you view things dramatically affects the action you take.
Tom discovered this while he was quarterback at the University of Michigan. When he was a freshman, he was seventh on the depth chart, a tool used in football to show the placements of starting and secondary players. He was the youngest in his class and felt like he was behind athletically. In high school and college, he was good, but never the best. This fueled his determination to work really hard.
During practice, Tom would only get 2 repetitions out of 50. He asked himself, “How can I show them what I’m capable of when I’m only getting two reps?”
Tom latched onto this mindset shift and made each rep count. Before long, his two reps turned into three, which turned into five, ten and twenty. Eventually, he got the most reps because he adopted the mindset that every rep counts – even in practice.
Tom’s philosophy, which applies to sports and business, is, “You gotta prove it every day.”
What is your mindset? Is it, “Poor me. I’m not getting a chance?” Or is it, “Whatever chance I get, I’m going to make it great?” Changing your mindset positively impacts you and those you lead. Choose wisely.
Motivate your team well
Tom knows the success of the New England Patriots isn’t all about him. Tom obviously has all the skills to play the quarterback position, but in order to win, he needs receivers that catch better than him and lineman that block better than him. Everyone has to do their job well, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if he does well and others don’t; or if others do well, and he doesn’t. It takes the whole team to win.
Once you have the right team in place, you have to know how to motivate them. The more you can get inside the heads of your team, the better you’re able to influence them in a positive way.
I love Tom’s approach to motivating his team. It’s all about connecting with them and getting to know them. The new players could be 18 years younger than Tom, yet he manages to connect by listening to their music and being conversant on the things they enjoy. He also acts as a role model for preparation and practice – teaching new team members how to be professionals. Just spending time with his team allows him to relate better so they can all bring their best to the field.
On the field, Tom conveys contagious confidence, especially when his team is behind or any moment when his players need him the most. He’s become a student of body language and does his best to make sure he sends his teammates the right message through his posture and actions. Tom understands that his words matter as a leader and he can build someone up or bring them down with what he says.
His goal is to find the best way to motivate his teammates, and he knows that one size doesn’t fit all. Most players respond well to role clarity and encouragement. His team wants to know their job and responsibilities, and when he tells them “great job,” it helps them and makes a positive difference.
However, he realized one of the best players on the team never likes to be told he’s doing a good job. So, Tom motivates him by raising the bar and holding him to a higher standard.
How much time do you invest in getting to know your team? Connecting with them will only make you a better leader.
Create a noble cause
Leaders and their teams are motivated when they know what they’re doing matters. Their hearts and minds ignite when they are driving toward a powerful vision of the future. I call this creating a noble cause.
Tom created a cause that will launch him into the future and it’s all about his desire to help others. It’s called TB12.
He understands that being an athlete comes with pain. At one point in his career, his arm hurt every day and he wondered, “How can I be quarterback if I can’t throw the ball?”
He had access to the best rehab and nothing seemed to help until he was introduced to Alex Guerrero, the co-founder of TB12. Alex introduced Tom to pliability training, which lengthens and softens the muscles to relieve the pressure on tendons. After three days, the pain was gone, and Tom was hooked.
After discovering this breakthrough, which helps him feel better today than he did at 22, his cause became clear. Tom thought, “How can I not pass this information on to other athletes? There are kids out there in pain and sports aren’t fun if you’re in pain. I’m fortunate to play and have fun because I do it without pain.”
Tom wants to give back and provide everyone with access to pain-free athletics. His long-term vision is to have TB12 Sports Therapy Centers around the world.
Tom is truly a hard-working, determined, disciplined leader on and off the field. Tom told me he “… tries to be better today than yesterday, continuing to change, evolve and grow by surrounding myself with fun people I can learn a lot from.” He’s what I call an avid learner. And he’s making a difference.
How can you apply some of Tom’s leadership lessons in your role on or off the field? There’s more to learn from Tom – things like how he manages work-life balance and his advice on how to become confident. Learn all this and more here.
David Novak is the founder and CEO of David Novak Leadership and the founder, retired Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands. He is passionate about helping people become stronger leaders. He shares wisdom from some of the brightest and most successful leaders he knows in the David Novak Podcast.
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