I have covered various examples of Tom Brady being an example of what an accountable leader looks like. Most recently, he showed up and did it again. Here are some lessons from the field on stepping up and building your team.
Gut Check: Do you make those around you better?
Almost a decade ago, on February 5, 2012, to be exact, I posted my first blog just a few hours before Super Bowl XLVI.
In that game, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots brought their perfect, undefeated season to the championship to play against the New York Giants. It was a close game, and in the end, the Giants prevailed.
My blog was about Brady’s early days before he even made it into the pros. Few then saw in him the superstar athlete he would eventually become. His success was due to his fierce determination and leadership.
As a Patriots fan, I have followed Brady’s career for years and he inspired many leadership lessons that I featured in some of my blogs.
Leadership Lessons from Tom Brady
For example, in 2015, I wrote about his mental toughness, after the Patriots won the Super Bowl again, and he was named Most Valuable Player.
Then in 2017, I wrote about the team’s ability to unearth hidden talent in athletes others hadn’t believed could be successful.
And now, almost a decade after I posted my first blog, I find myself coming back to Tom Brady and his accomplishments as an athlete and leader.
Under this leadership, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV over the powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs. It wasn’t even close.
Brady was also named the game’s Most Valuable Player. That would be an astonishing feat for any athlete, but, at 43 years of age, what Brady did was truly remarkable.
Once again, there is a valuable leadership lesson for all of us to pay attention to in this story.
In March of last year, Brady signed with Tampa. At the time, Buccaneer coach Bruce Arians said,
“Tom is the most successful quarterback in the history of the league. But what makes him special is his ability to make those around him better. He’s a proven winner who will provide the leadership, accountability and work ethic necessary to lead us to our goal of winning another championship.”Bruce Arians, Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Just under a year later, Brady turned those words into reality. He led his team to a Super Bowl win and provided yet another critical leadership lesson.
Tom Brady as an example of an Accountable Leader
Accountable leaders stand out in their ability to consistently make the people around them better.
In the case of Brady, he does this in a few ways.
First, he sets the tone of accountability at a personal level. His fellow players can’t believe how hard he works and how committed he is to studying the game, keeping himself fit and ensuring that he’s able to help his team win. He accepts personal responsibility when he’s had a lousy game that affected his team’s success—no excuses from Tom Brady.
Brady understands an idea that I share in my book, Accountable Leaders: no leader can demand accountability from anyone else until they first embrace and model it themselves.
He’s also not one to rest on his laurels. When Brady started with the Buccaneers, he struggled to connect on long passes at first. He demonstrated a willingness to adapt his game to ensure he was ready and able to support his team’s success.
You can see why players respond when he calls them out on making mental mistakes or not stepping up as they need to in critical game situations. He sets the tone of constant improvement, starting with himself.
Finally, he does his best to build an accountable team. As Coach Arians said, Brady is only concerned about winning and knows that a team effort is required to do so. Therefore, he works hard to continually elevates everyone else’s game.
Leadership Accountability in Action
To me, Tom Brady’s career sums up so much of what an accountable leader looks like in action:
- It’s about setting the tone with your aspirational goals, setting the example of accountability with your actions, and modelling the work ethic and drive you expect your team to demonstrate.
- It’s about seeing the talent and potential in others – not just the superstars, but also the diamonds in the rough who have untapped potential.
- And it’s about mental toughness—the willingness to have the hard conversations and run towards the biggest challenges instead of running away from them.
As leaders, we may not all be able to claim the title of G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All-Time). But we should all aspire to build a long leadership career – one where we set the tone of accountability and work with our teams to continue to achieve higher levels of performance year after year
This week’s Gut Check for Leaders asks: Do you make those around you better?
Special Note: The Gut Check for Leaders 2.0
I’ve been writing the Gut Check for Leaders blog for almost a decade now. I’ve posted more than 350 blogs during that time. As we look to the future, our plan is to continue to bring you compelling leadership insights to help you be the best leader you can be. You will see a updated format and style to the blogs to make them more direct, easier to read and with specific actions for you to implement in your own leadership role.
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