Leadership Takeaways From The Super Bowl Champion Patriots
While sports can be an overused metaphor for leadership lessons, I fully believe that leadership principles can be found in every circumstance is we put the right lens on how we view them.
This year’s Super Bowl, which was full of excitement, pre-game controversy, and media exploitation, was a great lesson in seeing some of these principles come out through the New England Patriots victory.
Whether you believe there was any intentional deflation of the footballs in the AFC Championship game (as leaders ourselves let’s not be quick to judge as not all of the evidence has come public) or that they have a history of breaking the rules since the “Spygate” incident of 2007, one must admit that this team displayed some incredible positive qualities that can be pointed out.
There may have never before been a team to overcome so much, individually as well as a unit, to achieve a difficult goal as did the Patriots this past Sunday. They have taught us some lasting lessons in leadership that we can certainly takeaway and apply in our lives:
- When others say you’re washed up, keep working harder. After a crushing loss to the Chiefs in Week 4, people were saying that quarterback Tom Brady was washed up. People said he should be benched or traded. The offensive line was horrible and couldn’t play well. Coach Belichik needs to retire. It’s at a crossroads like this that leaders and teams look deep within and find out what needs to change and put those steps into play.
- Know the rules. In the AFC Divisional game, the Patriots pushed the envelope in their defensive formation that gave them an edge over the Battledore Ravens by creating mismatches. The officials complied with the rules, saying the Patriots identified their eligible and ineligible receivers correctly, and gave the Ravens the needed time to adjust. While pushing the envelope may be a controversial move – such as when I would step out of the batter’s box before the pitcher would wind up to throw off his timing, purely legal in my baseball days – knowing the rules to gain a competitive edge that is allowable under the authorities (in this case the officials) worked in their favor. Knowing your industry and finding a legitimate edge and using that to gain a fair and allowable advantage is the mark of a studios leader.
- “Do Your Job”. This was the teams motto for the bulk of the year. Banners at the Super Bowl showed this rallying cry for every player. When it came down to the Patriots season after Week 4, the team knew that if they were prepared and mentally ready, there was only one thing to worry about come game time. Do Your Job. Leaders who can get their people to focus on doing their job, which also involves helping out your fellow teammates and making that extra effort, will help transform their teams into dynamic machines that will almost always achieve their goals day in and day out with that singleness of focus.
- Don’t stop believing in each other. The Patriots for years have always stressed teamwork over individual effort. While that has ebbed and flowed over the years, that core culture remains intact. With the motto of “Do Your Job” being put at the front, the players knew that the only way to succeed was to trust your teammates to perform well, and believe in their ability to contribute to the goal. Great leaders pull this belief out in their people consistently.
- Remind yourself of the champion within you. With the score 24-21 and needing to score, Brady got into the huddle and told his team “We need a championship drive.” It wasn’t that they need to score or play hard, but that if they were to win they needed to reach into themselves and find that championship caliber effort and determination that they had worked all season to hone. Brady, a leader shaped over time, knew what would motivate his team and was bale to bring out that championship mindset with those well-timed words.
- Let your people step up with an individual effort. Malcolm Butler did not start the game for the Patriots, but was inserted shortly into the first quarter to make up the difference in match-ups to cover the Seahawks receivers. He came up with some big plays, and was almost the goat in a deflected pass that resulted in a miracle catch near the goal line by the Seahawks that set up a potential game-winning drive. But when his team needed a key play the most, Butler intercepted the game-winning TD pass and all but sealed the victory for the Patriots. A well-trained and led team will always leave room for an individual to contribute in a huge manner at the right time.
- Ignore the noise. “DeflateGate”. A rehash of “Spygate”. Questioned integrity. Skeptics. Media frenzy. The Patriots, particularly Tom Brady and Coach Belichik, have probably never been so scrutinized or criticized in their careers. Under this type of pressure, and disruption of focus, one would have expected to see either man, or the team, crumble. Yet they stayed focused on the game and blocked out the noise when it mattered the most. This was never more clear than when Brady took the field in the 4th quarter down by 10 points and had that steely look of determination in his eyes. Leaders that succeed have a laser-like focus, block out the noise, and steer their teams to victory.
Like them or hate them, we can apply the lessons they’ve taught us to make our teams successful.