Tom Brady’s Invisible Hand: The kind of leadership that Adam Smith wrote about

Everyone who has read at this site for any amount of time knows how much I love the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  When I need a break from the serious stuff, I do enjoy the NFL product, and specifically I am a big Glazer family fan who owns the team.  Brian Glazer not that long ago sent me personally some nice flags and a kind note which I have displayed here out of respect.   I have always respected their commitment to winning, in having a winning mindset which I of course see as a metaphor for all things that we do in life.  I often say that the games we create in life reflect the nature of our existence and in spite of politics that are seeking to eat the NFL from the inside out, I have great value for the kind of decision making behind the X’s and O’s of professional football, including all the business stuff that goes on with salary caps, union negotiations, and the construction of stadiums to satisfy local market needs.  With that said, how the Glazer family managed to get their team to the first home Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida is amazing by itself, but to lure Tom Brady to helm the quarterback position, and to have the sense to leave him alone and not to micromanage him even with all they invested to make it happen is nothing short of a miracle to me.  In the business world, I would call it all an extreme anomaly.  Yet the Super Bowl for me was one of the greatest games I have ever watched.

I’ve been working on a business theory for quite a long time, I have a book coming out this year on the topic, but when the Buccaneers signed Tom Brady as quarterback my hopes shot up because I understood what the Glazers were thinking, and I knew what Brady was thinking.  As I said in the video above, taken very early in the morning, so the light is very low, if Brady had stayed in New England he would always be known as the creation of Bill Bilichick, the master offensive mind of a team that has won six Super Bowls.  At the end of his career, at least for the last few years anyway, Brady wanted to show that it was he who drove those winning teams.  Nothing against Bilichick but we see this in most organizations, from other sporting events, to business, even within family structures.  Ayn Rand dealt with this problem in her books, who makes who, is it the organization that wins or is it the individual.  Many people would like to say its both, but they would be wrong.  And they would also say that it’s the organization of classic top-down leadership that is in charge of wins and losses.  That is certainly the position of most governments of the world, and most communist leaning corporations.  Yet they always miss the truth. 

I saw Tom Brady going to Tampa as the quarterback as a perfect test case for my thoughts on this matter.  We know winners when we see them, but they are so rare that its hard to make a case study.  The Buccaneers were a 7-9 team last year with pretty much the same players.  They picked up Brady and some other hole fillers this year but give the kind of leadership they had in Tampa, I knew they would let Brady be Brady just as when Trump was Trump as President, great things happened.  It’s a Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi kind of thing, finding the flow of a process and the way that flow is conducive to the humans who interact with it.  A good leader can always find the flow of the people in a process.  Top down management establishes the flow and expects everyone to meet it, and the limits of the process are then limited by the weakest and worst in that process.  A leader like Tom Brady isn’t just about accurate throws and football basics, with him he knows how to get flow out of his fellow players not with a top-down approach where everyone is looking up at him because he’s the greatest of all time, but because he knows how to set goals that everyone can rally behind and believe in.  The most understudied and least talked about regarding Brady’s leadership ability is just how important it has been in setting him apart from everyone else. 

Brady had a chance to unleash that side of himself in Tampa Bay.  That has been in fact what the Glazers have been looking for the entire time I’ve been a fan of the team starting in 1993 when Sam Wyche brought some of the same characteristics to the team way back then.  In Tampa they have experimented with this kind of thing for a very long time which is why I have been a fan of them so intensely.  Its not just about football or the NFL experience, it has been a science experiment for me where I could watch them play around with the leadership formula and measure the results from year to year.  Sometimes it works in bits, sometimes not at all.  But this year was exciting because Trump was president, I was writing a book on the topic, and now my favorite team had made a clear decision to value individualism over the communist concept of individuals come and go, but the team is forever. 

At the end of Super Bowl LV nobody is questioning why Tom Brady was the greatest of all time in his field.  There was no talk about the raw skill of youth beaten by nature the wisdom of age.  Brady wasn’t just the quarterback; he was the coach and cheerleader.  He had the defense playing like there was no tomorrow and the passion on the field showed.  I have seen this passion in many professional activities that I’ve been involved in.  But this was happening on a huge global stage, and it defied the wisdom of everything that institutionalism preaches.  By the time it was all said and done, Brady had done something everyone thought was impossible, and it was impossible not by his age or skill, but by the intellect of the situation.   It was happening outside of conventional logic and was forcing people to deal with prejudices they have had all of their lives and they didn’t have definitions for what they were seeing.  But it was clear to me, and I was thankful for the experience. This wasn’t a lesson on how to move a football down field to score, it was on the very essence of leadership and how it works in the world.  When the same players a year ago with a losing record suddenly are winning the Super Bowl and all that really changed was the acquisition of Tom Brady, there is no other explanation.  A leader can be a leader anywhere.  But an organization can’t be a winning one without such a leader in their midst.  Once the games of life are done, its not so much the score, but in the flow of energy that is unleashed by a great leader that wins and loses in life.  It is Adam Smith’s invisible hand we are talking about, in this case the invisible hand of Tom Brady that made all the players and coaches in the Buccaneer organization just a little bit better, good enough to go from 7-9 a season ago to being unstoppable toward a Super Bowl victory.

Cliffhanger the Overmanwarrior
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