It’s not the story anyone expected.  An aging sports star yearns for a few more years of glory.  His team for 20 years thinks he’s past his prime.  But rather than a slow and painful decline, he leads a brand new team to the Super Bowl.  Doesn’t matter if you love him or hate him, Tom Brady has defied the odds. 

He’s not called the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T) for nothing.  But it took more than extraordinary talent to lead a new team to the Super Bowl in one season.  Tom Brady also possess extraordinary leadership – a combination of competence plus character.  And when your definition of character is the set of abilities it takes to meet the demands of reality, then Tom Brady’s vision has just become his reality.

After being call up to the mic as the “guy who’s largely responsible for” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers being the first team in NFL history to host a Super Bowl in their home stadium, Brady was asked his vision for the game.  His response?  “Great team effort … defense came on huge.”  Well, yeah.  Those 3 interceptions in the 2nd half were a gift to his opponent.  Now that’s a lesson in negative reality.  But the game’s not over until the game’s over.

The second question was “how were you tested today?”  And his second answer?  “We played well as a team.”  But before the announcer can get the third question out, Brady jumps in with a smile and says, “Let’s get some other people up here,” and hands over the mic.  We can’t be in the locker room or the huddle to hear exactly what he says, but by handing over the mic he provides us with a very public glimpse of leadership in action.

Brady already has the glory.  He has his own brand, an unstoppable career, and more money than most of the team.  He recognizes when it’s time let someone else experience standing at the mic as a victor, at least for the day.

And by doing so, he shows emotional maturity.  Adulting.  The ability to put aside the self and give the credit, and the spotlight, to someone else.  Because he understands that it does take a team – the defense, the offensive line that protects him, the receivers, the coach that sets him up for success – to win championships.

Later the coach echoes his sentiment by calling the team “family.”  When you’ve been through a lot together and came out better for it.  Each striving for growth in ourselves and in the others.  God designs our FOO (family-of-origin) for our development, but he also designs our FOG (family-of-God) for our on-going growth.  

Whether on the field or at week-long seminars, we start out as strangers, become a team, and end up as family.  Working through the bad calls and dropped balls.  Encouraging and leading each other.  And when we do the hard work, cast vision, set goals, and execute plays, we also experience the victories.  Together. 

Dr. Fleming is a Townsend Leadership Program Director, a GrowthSkills facilitator, a professor at the Townsend Institute, an executive coach, a wife, mom, and life-long football fan.  You can reach her at mf@drmichelefleming.com or through her website at www.drmichelefleming.com.

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