Become a more inspirational and resonant leader by fully aligning who you are with how you communicate.

(Note: This is in no way a football blog. I offer no insight into why the Patriots win or where Tom Brady ranks as a football player overall. I am, however, fascinated with his reaction to adversity this year and what we can learn from him.)

What I’ve learned this year from watching Tom Brady.

1. Manage your emotions in public. (People are watching you.)

2. Always believe in yourself, no matter how many mistakes you make.

3. No excuses. Be accountable for moving forward.

I count myself as a casual football fan. I will watch the games but generally do not lose much sleep over them (unlike the roller coaster ride that is my baseball fandom). I also am tired of the usual tropes of quarterback=great leader that we usually hear from the NFL. That being said, this has been a remarkable year from Brady. Here are some thoughts on what I have seen so far.

1. Manage your emotions in public.

New York Jets v New England Patriots

At the beginning of the year Brady yelled. A lot. The main discussion in the press was whether he “should” or “shouldn’t” yell at his teammates. What grabbed my attention was how deeply his intentions were being scrutinized. When you are the leader of a team, it is crucial that you understand this phenomenon. Everyone is trying to read your emotional state, and they will project onto it whatever they want. (Just ask Howard Dean about that.) The better we are at managing our emotions when in public, the less likely we are to send an unwanted message. Now when someone drops a pass or runs the incorrect route, Brady’s behavior is much more subdued publicly, but no less intense. (As evidenced by his tirade in the locker room after the last game.)

2. Always believe in yourself. (Regardless of mistakes you have made.)

Quarterback-Tom-Brady-2849647There have been a lot of comebacks this year for Brady and the Patriots, but the one that sticks most in my mind is the one against the New Orleans Saints on October 13th. What struck me about his play in this game was that he had played miserably in the second half (4 completions out of 15 attempts, not good). It just felt like they were going to lose. Despite that poor showing, he managed to come back out and win the game. The winning is nice, but it was the body language that amazed me. Despite playing poorly and even turning the ball over with only a few minutes to go in the second half, he just walked off the field showing no signs of frustration or worse, fake confidence, which tends to give the impression of brittleness and impulsive behavior. It helps to believe in yourself when you are a three time Super Bowl champ, but it is important to trust that awesomeness when the pressure is on and not second guess your ability to execute, regardless of how poorly you may have played.

3. No excuses. Be accountable for moving forward.

Rob_Gronkowski_Knee_Injury_Torn_ACL_Patriots_BrownsThis year’s team has been decimated by injuries and well, criminal behavior. Any one of those major blows to the team could easily have been an excuse to drop a game or two. I have no idea how they keep winning. Maybe it is the coach, Brady’s talent, great drafting, who knows? It is rare, however, that a leader of a team or organization does not become fixated on the unexpected setbacks, that he or she doesn’t in some way internalize the pressure and disappointment. It is so easy for people to revert to a childlike state where they whine and complain about fairness and how hard this makes it. Perhaps the hardest thing in leadership is to recognize “what is” versus “what should be.”It is a testament to Brady’s leadership that he never publicly mentions these things. More than not mentioning it, his body language suggests that it isn’t even a factor in his confidence.

If you are trying to stabilize an organization through some difficult times, then it makes sense to pay attention to Brady’s behavior during this season.

Manage what emotions you exhibit publicly, believe in your ability to overcome the obstacles and never allow the setback to define who you are.

These may be cliches in the world of sports, but we are seeing them play out this season, which is pretty cool. Feel free to comment if you have thoughts that you would like to add.

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