What Transformational Leaders Can Learn from the “Greatest of All Time Quarterback” Tom Brady
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that now Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, is a G.O.A.T. — Greatest Of All Time!
For all the years he played for the New England Patriots, a huge rival of my favorite team, I considered him a nemesis. But straight off his seventh Super Bowl win — especially considering the circumstances — even I must acknowledge and admire his GOAT status.
If you, like me, would like to be the ‘greatest of all time’ in your life, there’s a lot we can learn from Brady.
I would love to be considered a great leader — a person who made a difference and contributed. I would love to be recognized as a person who not only worked on myself to become my best, but who also was a positive influence on others.
There’s no question that Tom Brady has been that kind of an individual in many ways.
Leadership of the Losingest Team on Record
The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl six times during the 20 years Brady played for the franchise. Then, just a year ago, the quarterback with the greatest winning percentage transferred to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team with the lowest winning percentage of all time.
Consider that for a minute. How do you step into a locker room and transform that type of culture in less than one year? And not just any year, but a year where there’s been the COVID-19 challenge, where there was no off-season training and no training camp.
Brady had to step in and quickly learn a completely new system and playbook. The Buccaneers had not been in the playoffs for 13 years, yet he was able to lead them to the playoffs and then to the Super Bowl. That would have been a significant accomplishment on its own. Yet he was able to go even further, winning his seventh Super Bowl Championship by defeating the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs — a team who had arguably the most talented player in football in Patrick Mahomes.
To put that in perspective for any non-sports fans reading this, there is not a single team in the National Football League that has won seven championships. The two teams with the most Super Bowl wins, the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, each have six championships. Tom Brady himself as an individual has seven.
If we’re serious about becoming better leaders, we can definitely learn from Brady. Here are 3 lessons we can apply to become our own GOAT.
GOAT Leadership Lesson #1: Create a Great Vision
At the start of his college football career, Brady attended the University of Michigan. On the depth chart on his own team, he was the sixth-best quarterback. This meant that there were five quarterbacks on the team who were better than him.
One evening during his freshman year, his parents took him out to dinner. While they were waiting for a table, he turned to his parents and said, “Mom and Dad, someday — someday — I’m going to be a household name.”
He had a picture in his mind of what greatness looked like, and we can create our own mental pictures, as well. Ask yourself this: “What does greatness look like to me? What would the ‘greatest of all time’ version of me look like in my mind?”
Work on that image. Refine that image. Write it up for yourself. When you have a great vision, no matter what the circumstances are, you can work toward that vision. To achieve greatness — or any goal, really — we need to know what the destination is.
Brady had his vision. By the time he finally had the opportunity to be the starting quarterback, he was a senior in college. It took him four years to get there. That took persistence and a commitment to his vision.
So now he’s a starter … and then a hot new kid joins the team. Brady is starting, but the coach makes him share time on the field with the new kid. Some players would have been crushed, upset or used the decreased playing time as an excuse to not achieve their goals, but he didn’t let it stop him.
By this point in his college career, Brady’s vision had expanded. His new goal was to be drafted into the National Football League. When they were picking players to move from college football up into the pros after his senior year, he didn’t get drafted in the first round, the second round, the third, fourth, or even the fifth round. He didn’t get drafted until the very last round — number 199.
That’s right. The greatest player of all time had 198 people chosen before him. He was the sixth quarterback taken in that draft; five other players at his position were taken ahead of him. He was the seventh player that the New England Patriots drafted that year. Yet, none of this deterred the vision of his own greatness that Brady held in his mind.
GOAT Leadership Lesson #2: Develop a Daily Process
A huge secret to Brady’s success is that he had great support throughout his entire career — great mentors, great coaches, great counseling.
One of the most important things these supporters taught him was to create a daily process for success. He calls his daily process for greatness the “TB 12 ways.” (T and B are his initials, and his playing number is 12.)
Brady doesn’t believe that greatness happens at the end of a year. Greatness doesn’t happen when you win a Super Bowl. Greatness happens by what you do day in and day out, so he works a daily process to be great every day. We can all learn from this practice.
Ask yourself: “How refined is my daily process? How dialed in am I to what I’m doing today? Am I in a daily process of mediocrity? Am I kind of just squeezing by? Am I putting in a little effort and doing just ‘okay’ and ‘pretty good’? Or do I have a daily process that reflects the greatest version of myself of all time?”
I’m so inspired by Tom Brady winning that seventh Super Bowl in 2021. At 43, he was the oldest player ever to play in a Super Bowl — which obviously means he was also the oldest player to ever win a Super Bowl.
No other quarterback has won more than four Super Bowls, yet he just won his seventh championship. Achieving this level of greatness started with him having a daily process of greatness — of making the choice to do the right things every day without fail. Do you have a GOAT process for your greatness?
GOAT Leadership Lesson #3: Focus on Improving
Brady was asked, “What would it be like to win your seventh Super Bowl? Are you looking forward to the possibility of that? Do you have an image in mind of winning a seventh Super Bowl?”
His reply was insightful. He said, “My goal has never been to win Super Bowls. The goal has been to maximize my potential.”
He talks about being satisfied with measuring improvement. He’s focused on progress and finding different ways to get just a little bit better on a daily basis. If he doesn’t feel like he’s improving, he’ll either find a way to improve or switch what he’s doing. That discipline is as true today at the age of 43 as it was when he was in college. So even though he just set a record by winning his seventh Super Bowl, he’s still coming back next year because he believes he can still improve at the age of 43 playing in the NFL.
Ponder Brady’s approach in relation to your own life. What can you do today to get just a little bit better today as a transformational leader? What would improving look like for you?
For example, I got up today and worked out just a little bit harder than I did yesterday. I brought a little bit more focus in my workout.
You, too, can identify a small action you can take right now that will improve you just a little bit. What is a daily process that you can engage in, and how can you get just a little bit better today? Share your thoughts and commitment below. Simply by claiming it, you’ll become a little better today.
Become a GOAT, Day by Day
Émile Coué, the French psychologist, famously affirmed for himself and his patients this mantra: “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
I encourage you to adopt this mantra for yourself, as well as to apply the 3 leadership lessons we’ve learned from Tom Brady.
Working a daily process in service of the vision you have in mind and being willing to celebrate potential will allow you to evolve into the ‘greatest of all time’ version of yourself.