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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Flakes, PE

Seven Traits That Make Tom Brady a Champion and Can Apply to Every Working Professional

Tom Brady throwing a pass at Michigan Stadium on the campus of Michigan University in Ann Arbor
Maize & Blue Nation | Wikimedia Commons

Tom Brady is widely considered to be the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history. Brady has won a record seven Super Bowls in 10 appearances. He has a record five Super Bowl MVPs in those seven victories. Brady holds other records for games started, passing yards, and passing touchdowns.

Brady’s success on the football field can be greatly attributed to seven key traits. Fortunately, the traits that make Brady an all-time great can easily apply to workers who desire to excel in their careers. Below are the seven traits with tips for developing them and suggestions for further reading.

1. He is resilient.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”

Brady has demonstrated his ability to be resilient since his early college days at the University of Michigan. The coaches who recruited Brady to Michigan were fired, so he began his college career as the seventh-string quarterback. Brady would eventually hire Greg Harden, a psychologist, to deal with the frustration of not playing. In 2020, Brady spoke to Howard Stern about his experience with Harden.

I started working with a psychologist, who was really an amazing influence on my life. It's a little emotional. It was a very vulnerable time in my life. I was kind of questioning who I was because I had gone from California to Michigan. I was a long way from home. It was a different environment…..His name was Greg Harden. He helped me kind of grow up from this kid in California to really being more of a man, and being more on my own, and taking more personal responsibility for my life, because he wasn't going to let me be a victim.

Brady eventually worked his way to becoming the starting quarterback at Michigan, significantly due to how he learned to adapt to adversity. Even in the NFL, Brady continued to demonstrate his resiliency. Brady’s historic comeback in Super Bowl LI is an amazing example of his resiliency. In his interview with Stern, Brady described the mindset that led to his epic performance.

We were down 28-3 in a Super Bowl against Atlanta in Super Bowl. You could look at that situation and basically quit, and say 'F--- it, we have no shot at winning.' Or you can say, 'This is going to be an amazing comeback when we come back from this, this is going to be the defining moment in our life. The defining moment in our professional career.' And I think when you shift your mind to think that way, it becomes very empowering, as opposed to very discouraging.

Professional Plus tips for becoming more resilient:

  • Learn from your mistakes

  • Be optimistic

  • Seek professional therapy or support from trusted friends and family

  • Seek out positives

  • Practice self-compassion

  • Reframe negative thoughts

Further reading:

2. He is charismatic.

Charisma plays a large role in Brady’s success on the football field. In college, Brady’s charisma allowed him to build rapport with his teammates. John Navarre, for example, was a freshman backup quarterback at Michigan who Brady inspired. “He was just the kind of guy you wanted to be around and do what he was doing," Navarre said in an interview about Brady for ESPN. "Everybody liked him. Everybody was drawn to him and wanted to hear what he had to say. He was a leader not only on the football field but in the whole athletic department. Wherever he went, you wanted to be around that."

Brady’s charisma is also a huge reason he has been a beloved teammate for over 20 seasons in the NFL. His charisma has helped him build impactful relationships with his professional teammates. "He's a very down-to-earth guy, easy to talk to," said Deatrich Wise Jr., a former teammate with the Patriots. “That’s what makes him so likable and lovable on the team, how he builds team chemistry amongst everybody on the team, through just talking, just interacting. ... He doesn't allow the stature he has to distance himself from everybody."

Professional Plus tips for becoming more charismatic:

  • Embrace vulnerability

  • Be confident but not arrogant

  • Make eye contact and practice active listening

  • Be aware of body language

  • Be sincere

  • Ask questions

Further Reading:

3. He has a relentless work ethic.

A work ethic is a set of moral principles that govern a person's performance at work. There are many talented people in this world, but professionals with strong work ethics are better positioned to reach their career goals. Greats like Tom Brady have excellent work ethics and use their work ethic to inspire others to model their behavior.

In an excerpt from the ESPN sports documentary Man in the Arena, Brady discusses why work ethic is more sustainable long-term than talent.

Professional Plus tips for improving your work ethic:

  • Be dependable

  • Be disciplined

  • Be persistent

  • Do not procrastinate

  • Identify the purpose of your work

Further Reading:

4. He is a team player.

Another remarkable trait that Brady possesses is his willingness to be a team player. In the NFL, teams operate under a salary cap, an agreement that limits the amount of money each team can spend on player contracts. The franchise quarterback usually takes up the largest share of a team’s salary cap. Despite Brady being an all-time great quarterback, Brady has never been the highest-paid player in the NFL. Estimates are Brady has sacrificed at least $60M to help build rosters that can contend for Super Bowls.

During his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Brady explained why he has never demanded to be the highest-paid player in the NFL.

Most workers cannot take less money to build a team around them. That should not be the expectation, but what can be learned from Brady's example is that sacrifice is often required to achieve team goals.

Professional Plus tips for being a team player:

  • Know your role

  • Take initiative

  • Be supportive of your teammates

  • Collaborate

  • Be accountable for your work

  • Be adaptable

  • Have an open-minded

Further Reading:

5. He exudes confidence.

One thing that Brady certainly does not lack is confidence. Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots owner, often shares his version of his first meeting with Brady. At the meeting, Kraft recalls Brady telling him, “I’m the best decision this organization has ever made.”

Brady even told his high school coach, Tom MacKenzie, that if he ever got a chance to replace the starting quarterback, the Patriots would never take his job away. "Drew Bledsoe is such a talented quarterback, but I've got one advantage on him," Brady told MacKenzie. "I pay more attention to detail. ... If I ever get a chance to get that first-string job, nobody's taking it away from me."

Once Brady became the starter due to a Drew Bledsoe injury, he later told his backup, Damon Huard, "You know, Damon, I've been playing this game my whole life. I've started a couple games now, and it's the same game, man. It's no different. I kid you not, it's not that hard. I'm going to be a great one. I'm going to be one of the best at this game."

Later in the season, Brady led his team to his first Super Bowl appearance against the favored St. Louis Rams. In the locker room before Super Bowl XXXVI, Brady even told Huard, “We’ll know what it feels like to be world champions in three-and-a-half hours.” Brady and his underdog team then upset the Rams and won the Super Bowl.

Professional Plus tips for being more confident:

According to research from My Confidence Matters, about 70% of employees lack self-confidence when it comes to speaking up at work. This lack of self-confidence can hurt your success at work.

Working professionals can learn from Brady’s high self-confidence using the following tips:

  • Recognize your strengths

  • Have a positive attitude toward yourself

  • Don’t compare yourself to others

  • Acquire skills in areas where you are lacking

Further Reading:

6. He is humble.

Confidence and humility might appear contradictory, but Brady is an excellent example of balancing both. He is a future Hall of Fame inductee but won’t speak about his greatness. In a 2018 interview with Oprah, Tom Brady responded to her question about being the greatest quarterback of all time by saying that he enjoys the conversation, but his focus is on being the best athlete he can be.

Brady is consistent with his humble response. During a 2020 interview with Howard Stern, Brady was asked if he was better than his boyhood idol, Joe Montana.

"I can't say that," Brady said. "I would never say that. That's not how I think about myself. The only thing I care about is, am I the best I can be?"

Professional Plus tips for practicing humility:

  • Practice listening to others

  • Seek regular feedback

  • Be grateful

  • Don’t brag

  • Recognize your faults

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Further Reading:

7. He actively recruits talent

Great leaders are always looking to surround themselves with the best talent. Moreover, the best talent wants to work with great leaders. Brady has never had a problem recruiting talent to play with him.

When Brady left the Patriots as a free agent for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, he recruited three players that were key team members who helped him win a Super Bowl. Brady was able to persuade Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement. Brady also convinced Leonard Fournette to sign with the Buccaneers as a free agent. Brady even courted the controversial but extremely talented Antonio Brown to play for the Buccaneers. Brady is such a great teammate that he invited Brown to train at his home in Tampa.

"We’re getting to work, and he likes to be integrated into what we’re doing. (It's) a big transition for him moving across the state really not knowing anyone", said Brady in a statement to reporter Jim Gray. "Again, just trying to be a great teammate and help someone out who is a friend of mine."

Professional Plus tips for recruiting talent:

  • Excel in your current role

  • Communicate well

  • Network constantly

  • Develop negotiation skills

  • Advocate for others

  • Be persistent

  • Be professional

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