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Goldman Sachs advises: “Lead like Tom Brady”

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The leadership culture of the investment bank Goldman Sachs has been in the media a lot lately. On April 26, 2010, Kate Kelly wrote an interesting article for the Wall Street Journal titled Goldman’s Take-No-Prisoners Attitude. (free content). Kelly writes:

Young traders in Goldman’s mortgage unit were told to take a cue from Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback regarded as methodical and cool under pressure, say people who were in the unit. For a group filled with Red Sox and Patriots fans—and led by a Texas A&M University graduate who traveled back to his alma mater for football games—the analogy struck a chord.

That quote also struck a chord with me. Before launching Weekly Leader back in December of 2008, I wrote about leadership on my Sea-Fever blog and the Center of Leader Development blog.  In January of 2008, I wrote a post titled You can be Tom Brady, sort of… that I think is worth reading again.

The post took a look at an SI.com post by exNFLer Ross Tucker about How the Patriots do it: An inside look at key’s to New England’s dominance. Tucker cited five leadership characteristics that set the Patriots apart from other NFL teams and provided detailed and convincing arguments for each. They are:

  1. Clearly identifying keys to the game;
  2. Developing the perfect game plan;
  3. Being proactive in acquiring personnel;
  4. Building a team, not a collection of athletes;
  5. Tom Brady.

What really resonated with me was this quote:

Tom BradyDuring my time in New England I worked as a backup lineman and often had to snap to Brady while playing center. In spite of all of the other chaos that he had to sort through, he (Brady) always found the time to look me squarely in the eye and say, “C’mon Ross, me and you, let’s get a great snap first.”

I never wanted to snap a ball so well in my life.

I was a veteran in my fifth and sixth years in the league while in New England and I had started over 20 games, but Brady’s ability to single me out and make me feel important for the success of the play was unlike anything I had experienced.

Imagine 52 other guys feeling that way every Sunday and you will begin to truly understand why Brady and the Patriots are redefining perfection.

Having experience of being both a teammate and an opponent, Tucker’s perspective of Tom Brady’s leadership style was particularly valuable. I wrote:

Okay, you might not stand 6′ 4″, be able to thrown the football 60 yards to Randy Moss running full tilt, stand in the pocket knowing that you will take a ferocious hit from a monster outside linebacker or break the single season NFL record for touchdown passes. But as a leader, there is no reason that you can’t communicate with your “team” the way Brady does with his. Clear, honest and authentic communication is one of the cornerstones of strong leadership. Effective one to one communication is the best way to bring out extraordinary performances from all of the members of your team. It’s contagious and will help create a winning attitude.

Tucker’s short SI column provides more valuable and effective leadership advice than 90% of the business best sellers in book stores.

Next time you get the chance to lead your teammates, be Tom Brady!

I’m not exactly sure that this is what Goldman Sachs had in mind when they told their young leaders to be like the Patriots quarterback but there’s interesting lessons to learn there too.

Leadership manifests it self in many different ways and is subject to diverse perspectives and opinions.  Whether they like it or not, successful people (including athletes) serve as leadership role models, sometimes unwittingly, and those who look up to them will often edit their role model’s leadership story to fit their own circumstances.

One of the most important lessons here is that you just might be a leader role model to someone that you don’t even know and that’s quite a responsibility. Are you living up to it (like Tom Brady)?

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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