Tom Brady: America’s Greatest CEO

“Greatness favors neither the lucky nor the bold…but instead favors the prepared” Lawrence C. Jackson

As an aspiring businessman, I’ve had the pleasure of studying a lot of great leaders past and present. There are many things to take into account when looking at what a CEO does. The CEO is the leader, the captain, first-in-command but more importantly he’s the one who is responsible for the performance of the company. In the world of leadership, we know that all leaders are not created equal and that leaders can come from the unlikeliest of places. In that, it’s not unusual to hear about some great athlete or coach giving leadership speeches or speeches on excellence. John Wooden is the most prominent name of late to come to mind. Everyone looked and learned from John. Warren Buffett to me, is the John Wooden of Investing. Year after year after year he has his portfolio in a competitive position. It’s not exciting, it’s not sexy, it’s performance. Performance is what Brady has mastered.

Having played in the NFL for 5 years and playing at USC under Pete Carroll, I know the complexities of performance in sports let alone football. There’s a reason why the Patriots are in contention for the Super Bowl year after year. They are the 3G capital of football. A relentless pursuit of efficiency, with zero-based performance budgeting. Where every week you as a player have to justify why you should be the starter. Tom Brady is held to this same level of performance standard. This can only be accomplished under a very unique set of circumstances. Complete alignment between the front office, ownership and the head coach. Alignment is a simple word that houses an intricate set of activities that make it work. But the most important thing with alignment is Shared Purpose. When the key players of an organization are operating from a sense of shared purpose, an amazing thing happens. Conditions are fertile for Culture. For the Patriots, that culture is excellence.They as an organization, understand that excellence is a habit. A habit that they repeatedly strengthen.

Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick seem to understand the value of shared purpose and culture as well as strategy. Key to their successful strategy is a Leader of Men on the field. Someone who can extend the relentless commitment to excellence into the locker, within the huddle, permeating the hearts of his teammates, through his actions. One of the biggest advantages that Brady has is obsessive capacity to endure the rigors of becoming great. Being great is not accidental, it’s intentional. Greatness favors neither the lucky nor the bold….but instead it favors the prepared.

And I have news for you. Performance is the result of preparation.

It is clear to me that Tom Brady is an excellent time investor as he is results wealthy. People are marveled at the idea of Brady playing beyond 40. What people don’t understand is that the body has this sort of bio-plasticity, where you can actively age and even age backwards physically. There are many people who are extremely diligent in the daily maintenance of their human body. I was only a defensive end and I got 6 hours of massage per week, acupuncture, 2 chiropractor visits, daily hyperbaric chamber sessions, self muscle care stretching among many other things in an effort to have a performance advantage. In football, they say, ‘You can’t make the club in the tub’ and that availability is the currency of football. Tom Brady not only finds himself available, but available to perform at a high level. Reminding you of Kobe Bryant and his resilience. When you think of the Patriots you think of them with Brady at the helm.

Aside from being physically able to perform through maintenance, Brady obviously has a mental training routine that has a dual purpose. The first is to increase his cognitive processing speed and the second is to maintain mastery of his emotions and the impact they can have on his performance. This process leads to a state of ultra-self awareness in which, Brady is able to separate himself the person from Brady the athlete. Brady the person is able to control Brady the athlete, creating a halo of clear focus and come and go access to the zone.

Although they are very critical in success, physical conditioning and mental conditioning are supporting aspects to one critical aspect. Film study. I can assure you that Brady watches the amount of film to where he understands the subtle movement patterns of the defenders. Aside from getting physical cues that alert him to what players are doing, he understands the things that they as players are using as keys in an effort to exploit those biases. When you combine this self funded learning within a culture of excellence with a unique strategic road map towards victory you get a machine.

A machine that has a master controller that is comfortable in the face of ambiguity. A leader that doesn’t feel pressure. A leader that relies on the fundamentals that he gains in practice. A leader that does what he practices and practices what he does. A leader that shows up and performs at his best everyday. A leader that creates unprecedented engagement amongst his co-workers. A leader that creates the standard only to exceed the standard requiring those following to pick up the pace. A leader that doesn’t accept excuses from anyone, not even himself.

The company he leads is not on the S&P 500, it doesn’t trade on the stock market. The company he leads is 1 of 32 companies in the world that participate in creating a singular product. A company that seems to be in the same position every year…waiting for the confetti to fall. I’m not saying that Brady isn’t unbeatable, Michael Strahan and the Giants had the answer twice, proving their superiority. Michael Strahan was another great CEO.

What I am saying is that the NFL is one of the greatest businesses in the world and within that one business, there is a single leader who outperforms his peers, year after year after year. For these reasons, Tom Brady is my pick for America’s Greatest CEO.