You know what none of the great leadership speakers, gurus, TEDx speakers, etc., will tell you about leadership? Sometimes in leadership, even the best, greatest, visionaries, have to do things they wouldn’t want anyone else to know about.
We got to see this in the past weeks with Tom Brady, the Super Bowl winning quarterback from the New England Patriots, with how he responded to the Deflategate scandal. Tom had a chance to be the leader we all believe leaders to be. Instead, he was the leader that most leaders are.
You don’t want to hear this.
Brady did what leaders do. He protected the brand. Whether you like it or not, New England, The NFL and Tom Brady are the brand. He protected the shield. You really think he’s going to throw the brand on the sword for some equipment guy that no one will know in 30 seconds?
Now, don’t get me wrong. Tom Brady is a liar. He lied about not knowing anything about those balls being deflated. He knew exactly why and how those balls were deflated, because he gave the order!
The NFL is a $100 Billion dollar business. The New England Patriots are the NFL. Tom Brady is the NFL. Just like the rest the teams and players are. So, the NFL, the Patriots and Brady all have a vested interested in ‘handling’ this with as little collateral damage as possible.
Throwing a couple of equipment guys under the bus, throwing the blame on them, is collateral damage to protect the brand.
You know what happens when when a giant multi-national company does something horribly wrong and there is loss of life or major damage? They find someone to shoulder the blame that is smaller than the brand. People lose jobs. Sometimes they even go to prison. But the company, the brand live on.
You’ll never see the multi-national CEO come out and take the blame for catastrophic events. They’ll have empathy, they’ll have compassion, but they will not take blame. This is real leadership.
You don’t want to believe that this is leadership, but it is.
Tom Brady did for the NFL what great leaders do. He deflected a cheating scandal that could have cost billions of dollars to the brand, and placed it on the shoulders of some guy making $40,000 a year. People can accept that story. Some dumb equipment manager was a super fan and just trying to help out ‘his’ guy. It wasn’t Tom. Tom is a modern day God!
Welcome to the show kids.
Bravo, Tim. We may want to follow the Boy or Girl Scout code, and hopefully we mostly do, but there may be circumstances that require a different approach. Would you approve the torture of an individual to try to extract information if there was good evidence to suggest he knew the location of a ticking bomb set to explode shortly, possibly killing hundreds or thousands? It is so easy for all of us to throw rocks and assume a holier than thou attitude, but we do need to judge actions in context.
Interesting points about “protecting the brand.” The Patriots behavior was consistent with that, but not consistent with the message. They suspended the 2 equipment guys indefinitely while still arguing the balls were never actually deflated (“science”).
That’s also an act of “leadership” – use any means necessary to clear your name, whether it’s find a scapegoat or contradict your actions.
It’s not about whether leaders DO this. It’s about whether leaders SHOULD do this.