27 June 2024

Tom Brady: Lessons in Leadership

Whether you were cheering him on or watching him beat your favorite team, it is hard to deny the greatness of Tom Brady. Selected in the 6th round, 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady had a 2% chance of becoming a quality player in the National Football League. But somehow, when he was presented with his opportunity in the 2001 season, he not only stepped in and proved the statistics wrong, but even more so exemplified his ability to persevere and lead a team. In his second season in the NFL, coming off the bench, the unheralded Tom Brady won the Patriots their first Super Bowl and forever changed the face of football.

You can chalk up Brady’s success to luck or choose to believe he simply needed the opportunity to showcase his talents. On the surface both may be viewed as true statements; however, I personally believe there is much more behind the legacy that Tom Brady created. More than luck and innate talent, I believe the journey through hardship and adversity, while maintaining a drive and a dedication to improvement, all while surrounded by strong leadership, molds a player, athlete and person into who they need to be when opportunity presents itself, just as it did for Brady in his 2001 season.

Brady recently gave a speech at the Patriots Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, where he was officially inducted, and the No. 12 jersey was forever retired. The speech described the journey that made him not only the successful athlete he was, but the person and leader he became. He began his speech highlighting the importance behind playing sports—in that they are hard. They challenge us not only physically, but mentally. In my personal football career, from grade three through high school, I gained many lasting memories, but the lessons I learned from them played a much more formative role in shaping who I am today.

As a young boy, I begged my mom to play padded football, but she worried I would get injured. After endless pleads and a season of flag football, she threw in the towel and agreed to let me play with pads. I was beyond excited. Getting sized for helmets and shoulder pads, finding a different intensity in the way the coaches spoke and led, I finally felt like the real deal. My confidence quickly diminished at the first practice. By the first water break, I was in tears, begging my mom this time not to let me play, but to please take me home and let me quit. It was hard. Luckily for me, I have a strong mama and she was not about to let her son quit when things got tough.

Brady continued his speech with, “…But understand this, life is hard, no matter who you are, there are bumps and hits and bruises along the way. And my advice is to prepare yourself. Because football lessons teach us that success and achievement come from overcoming adversity.” He followed with, “To be successful at anything, the truth is you don’t have to be special. You just have to be what most people aren’t: consistent, determined and willing to work for it.”

It is through life’s adversity that I have grown into the young professional I am today. It is through accepting challenges and not running from them, getting back up when knocked down and trekking the path of discomfort and uncertainty rather than strolling down path of ease that I find myself on a team at EHRA Engineering.

I was medically DQ’d from the Naval Academy, leading me to take on the new challenge of a big university. I chose to accept the grind of an engineering degree, and ultimately put myself out in the professional world when I still knew so little. Through this adversity, I could have quit when things got hard, given up when things did not go my way, but instead I chose the path forward, guided by the principles instilled in me by all the leaders that had an impact on my life.

Although I am not a member of a Super Bowl winning football team, I still find myself a part of something special. A team of like-minded individuals pushing the boundaries of industry, guided by a core set of principles much like those spoken by the greatest quarterback of all time.

1) One Team. Like Brady said, “Team accomplishments far exceed anyone’s individual goals.” 2) Keep it Fresh. Learn, adapt and shift to continuously improve and move the needle. 3) Do The Right Thing. It is easy to take the easy way out. It is easy to stop short of the line when no one is looking. But when you do the right thing, you not only benefit yourself, but you become a trusted partner and teammate to those that rely on you. 4) Own the Work. Holding yourself accountable ultimately leads to desired outcomes. If you take pride in the work you produce, while also showing humility when questions need to be asked, there is no doubt when the project leaves the door it will represent the team well. 5) Be a Leader. No matter what role you find yourself in, there is always an opportunity to be a leader. Being a leader is not about being in a position of power but about how you represent yourself, how you interact with those around you and how you accept challenges and face adversity.

The advice that has carried me this far in my life and career I now share with my fellow upcoming young professionals. If you move forward through adversity with your chin up, speak with compassion, challenge yourself and elevate those around you, you will create an impact on not only your own success but the success of those you inspire along the way. Take advantage of challenges. Learn from adversity. Do not settle. Dedicate yourself to becoming the best version of yourself, both professionally and personally.

I end with a final quote from the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, “I think sometimes in life the biggest challenges end up being the best things that happen in your life.”