Of all the great sports clichés, none is more worthy of study than "quarterback as leader." But in the long history of the game, there have emerged at rare times certain players who actually can teach us something about that most crucial trait in business, sports, or any group endeavor: leadership.
Of course, we’re talking about Tom Brady—three-time Super Bowl MVP, husband to the world’s most beautiful woman, all-around sports-world Benjamin Button—who, this weekend, is vying for his fifth Super Bowl victory. Brady has learned plenty since he became coach Bill Belichick's go-to guy in 2001. But the funny thing is that it turns out Brady knew a few key things before he even got the job.
"I was never the best player on any team," Brady tells Best Life. "That taught me how to work harder. I learned all about mental toughness on the practice field. If things weren't working out for me in high school, in college, early in my pro career, my solution was always to work harder and internalize. That way, whenever I got an opportunity, I was always prepared. See, there are a lot of guys who are all talk. They say they want to work harder and be the best, but they never pay the price. I love paying the price."
All right then. Are you ready to do the drill and take a few lessons from Tom Brady? Bring these five tips to work and watch your management skills sharpen before your eyes…and your boss's too. For more great tips, check out 25 Life-Changing Lessons from Super-Successful Men
"You choose to be quarterback, you take on a lot of other things. You can't ask people to do things or set expectations for them without doing things or setting even higher expectations for yourself. If you're the one screwing up or screwing off, it becomes just a lot of talk. I've always tried to be the guy who expects the most out of himself, so when I do ask those other guys to do the same, they'll look at me and say, 'Well, maybe this guy isn't so full of crap.'"
If your priorities are about the team and its success, then other guys won't be so hesitant to let you take over. "I like to have my hands in a little bit of everything," says Brady. "There were a lot of things I didn't feel comfortable having my hands in, but with the leadership challenges that I face now, I'm very comfortable with the demands of it. That definitely has become easier over the years. You gain credibility with the past performance, and that's what you use."
"The only thing 'individual' about a team sport is what I control: my actions and my attitude. If you want an individual sport, play tennis or golf. Then you're Tiger Woods and everything's great; you only have yourself to blame. When you're playing a team sport, you really understand that it takes every player on the team to achieve your goals, even if it's a rookie sixth-round draft pick."
All bosses have bigger bosses, and quarterbacks have head coaches. Brady's boss happens to be a guy named Bill Belichick. "Our relationship is based on about 90 percent football, which is right where I want it," says Brady. "What's most important to Coach Belichick is winning football games, and that's what's most important to me. As long as those priorities remain the same, we're always going to get along. I trust him so much in any decision he has to make, and over the years I've gained his trust too. Now I feel like when he asks me a question, he genuinely wants to know not just the answer, but my answer. There's no other coach I'd ever want to play for."
New talent needs time to assimilate, of course, but they have to execute at game time. "Jump in as fast as you can," says Brady. "Communicate the best you can, involve yourself in what they are doing throughout the day, and develop a relationship. We've got 40 practices before our first game, and a receiver and I are on, like, number 12 [at interview time]. With each one you learn something different. As Coach Belichick says, 'The price for success is always paid in advance.'"
If you feel like you're leaderhip skills aren't quite up to snuff, be sure to take our proprietary test—Are You a Bad Boss?—to know for sure.