Americans have run out of superlatives. Like Tom Brady or loathe Tom Brady – football fans come down on one side or the other – it is impossible to deny him his sensational stats.
But what has been underappreciated is Brady as a leader. He is a preternaturally gifted athlete. And he has become over time exemplary as a role model.
Brady is a man of few words and he is not prone to barking orders. Moreover, for two decades he was teamed with New England Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, who is famously daunting in his own right. They explain why Brady’s professional authority and personal influence were long downplayed or even ignored. But once he moved from New England to Tampa Bay, there was no mistaking it. During the last year Brady put on display his prowess as a leader of men – specifically of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their players and yes, their coaches.
Brady is a leader who has lusted, lifelong, for success. Lust is a psychological drive that produces intense wanting, even desperately needing to obtain an object or secure a circumstance. However, even after that drive has been satisfied, it does not stop. There is relief – but only briefly. Lust is lifelong – which is why Tom Brady continues, despite all the fame and fortune anyone could possibly want, to crave success. Individual success as a football player. Collective success on the football field. Global success as a world class athlete.
Brady’s lust for success largely explains not just his record as a player but his record as a leader. Unlike his talent for football, which in part is because he is a great natural athlete, his talent for leadership was not inborn. It was acquired. Acquired over time precisely because of his prowess and fearlessness.
Let’s be clear: Brady has continued to play against all logic. Logic would have dictated he retired years ago. But despite every time Brady steps onto a field he takes a risk he will get hurt, he has persisted in playing, lust trumping, as it always does, logic.
The wellspring of his leadership is not, then, Brady’s interpersonal skill. It is his skill, still, as a player. His skill in addition to his fierce ambition, his relentless determination, and his extreme work ethic. For years Brady as a leader was overshadowed by the leadership of Belichick. But once Brady moved to Tampa Bay those days were over. Brady has shone during the last year. He led primarily by example – less by what he said than by who he was and what he did.
Brady recruited to the team invaluable assets such as his former teammate, the ostensibly retired Ron Gronkowski, who played a pivotal role in this year’s Super Bowl game. Brady lifted the Buccaneers from the middle of the pack to the top of the heap. And Brady brought to Tampa the glory that comes with the trophy – the Vince Lombardi Trophy that is awarded each year to the winning team of the National Football League’s championship game.
Meantime this season at least the Patriots languished. They still had their longtime coach, Belichick, but they did not have their longtime quarterback, Brady. Clearly his skill as a player was missed. But seems his leadership was missed even more. Belichick found it hard to let Brady stand out as a leader. In contrast, Brady’s new coach, the Buccaneers’ Bruce Arians, has no such problem. Arians encouraged Brady to shine every which way, both as a player and as a leader. In January he said of his quarterback and his teammates, “When he talks, they listen.”
Obviously, Brady is an exemplar of singular, supreme athletic accomplishment. Less obviously he is an exemplar of someone who has used his natural but narrow gift to become something else altogether. An outstanding leader who in his early middle age is in more ways than one a force to be reckoned with.