This is stating the obvious, but Super Bowl LI will go down in history as being one of the most exciting and captivating sporting moments there has ever been. Analysts and pundits will also spend years dissecting and trying to understand how the New England Patriots turned a 19-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter into a win in overtime. Undoubtedly, a lot of the focus will be on the skills displayed on the field as well as what was said in the half-time locker room, on the side lines, and in team huddles. All of this is important, but the foundation for the win was established long before the game even kicked off. Beyond this individual game and this specific point in time, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have proven to be the ‘poster child’ for transformational leadership.
Transformational Leadership Defined
So, what is this exactly? St. Thomas University—Online states that “Transformational leadership inspires people to achieve unexpected or remarkable results. It gives workers autonomy over specific jobs, as well as the authority to make decisions once they have been trained.” STU goes on to say “Transformational leaders are sometimes call quiet leaders. They are the ones that lead by example. Their style tends to use rapport, inspiration, or empathy to engage followers. They are known to possess courage, confidence, and the willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good.”
This transformational leadership for the Patriots starts at the top, with owner, Robert Kraft. He hired Bill Belichick in 2000, after coaching with the New York Jets. The decision to go this route was sort of a head-scratcher by some pundits in the NFL. Belichick did not have much success in Cleveland and reeled off lackluster seasons with the Jets. Kraft saw something in Belichick where he could have a great partnership, an even better relationship, as well as handing the keys to the car and not having to worry about coach driving off the road. As Belichick jumped on board, he found a team with a gas tank empty on star-power, but he also knew that his boss would be patient and bought into his goals & vision of the team from day one. Kraft was a model in transformational leadership, showing patience and accepted that this was a long-term partnership, not a get rich quick scheme.
In a February 2017 article by the Harvard Business School—Working Knowledge…. ‘Leadership Insights From The Patriots: Why The Kraft/Belichick Duo Works So Well’ they elaborate on this owner-head coach relationship, highlighting the transformational leadership qualities in both men. “Belichick has said he considers the relationship between the head coach and the owner to be the most important and fundamental to a franchise’s success. Kraft’s trust in him enabled him to implement all the things he couldn’t in Cleveland—the kind of things Wells likes to teach in his course—a long-term vision, careful team-building to match, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.
The Patriots were $10 million over the NFL salary cap before Belichick’s arrival, and he quickly went about recruiting more affordable players that fit his system and philosophy. The result was a team that prioritized certain characteristics (toughness, intelligence, work ethic, ability to take coaching, and a team-first mentality), fit within the constraints of the salary cap, and allowed Belichick to develop a unique game plan for every opponent, and adapt on the fly.”
If the foundation of transformational leadership comes from owner, Robert Kraft, then the preacher, carrying out this message is none other than head coach, Bill Belichick. So perfectly nicknamed ‘hoodie’ or ‘the hoodie’ for his hooded sweatshirts and grungy, frat guy like sweat shirt & pants attire for practices and games. He is quite possibly the best head coach in NFL history, building on winning season, after winning season, collecting Super Bowl trophies, left & right… as well as shutting up the haters and doubters, year after year. It is mind boggling to everyone—experts and common fans—across the nation, as to how he accomplishes this every single year, without the star-studded line-ups his competition may have lining up. His transformational leadership shines even brighter when his team is decimated with injuries—and injuries to their best playmakers (i.e. Rob Gronkowski; aka ‘Gronk’) and continues to roll over everyone in the league.
The qualities of such leadership are evident in how he approaches leadership, how he runs his organization and the leadership qualities he expects from everyone involved in the team. Business leaders can learn a lot from Belichick’s approach, methods, and style. When reflecting on the unfortunate outcome of the losing team, important leadership lessons can also be learned by looking at the transformational leadership qualities and actions of the Atlanta Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn. While they were the losing side at Super Bowl LI, Quinn led his team through the season to earn a spot at the sport’s flagship match, before dominating the Patriots for three-quarters of football.
Everyone is a Shareholder
For Belichick, every individual working for the team is a shareholder and has a role to play in the team’s success. Of course, this applies to the players but it also applies to the coaches and everyone else with a job that supports the team. This doesn’t mean Belichick regards everyone as having an exactly equal contribution to make. Instead, he believes that every shareholder can “show positive leadership or negative leadership”. When they understand this, they are more likely to offer the positive leadership the team needs to win. This is what transformational leadership is all about.
This approach gives individuals involved with the Patriots team a sense of ownership and identification. They don’t just have a job to do as they are a part of something bigger than the job. They care about the organization, they strive to make it a success, and they are its biggest supporters. One of Belichick’s classic lines to his players is ‘do your job’… meaning, if you do your job and you do it well, the overall outcome will benefit the team.
As Daniel Rodic, co-founder of Éxact Media, elaborates on this exceptional transformational leadership:
“Do your job“ is something Belichick says constantly to refocus his team’s efforts on the field. It means complete your assignments, execute to the best of your ability and trust that your teammates will do the same. In a company, that is the only way a team can be successful.
But the Patriots take it a step further. With the Patriots your job may change from week to week. It may be a subtle change, such as focusing on running the football versus throwing passes. Or it may be drastic, like changing your position mid-season. Receivers Troy Brown and Julian Edelman were asked to switch from playing offense to playing defense when that’s what the team needed. In life, the only thing that is certain in the future is that things will change. The Patriots are built to embrace change. Your team should be too.”
In business, this is known as organizational identification, and it is particularly important in businesses in the network marketing industry. It occurs when your agents truly believe in your business (not just their business), care about its success (not just their own success), and want to do everything they can to help the business (not just their part of it). You achieve this organizational identification through your own transformational leadership and by establishing a culture that every agent and member of your team believes and understands they are a shareholder.
The Right Fit
One of the secrets to success in any sports team is having players that fit in with the organization. This means raw talent is not as important as talent that can fit in with the organization’s strategy and way of playing. For example, a team of good players working together will always win against a team of very good players all doing their own thing, looking out for their own careers, and, ultimately, running in different directions. As stated above, the most remarkable quality of Belichick’s transformational leadership, is the ability to continue to win games when his team does not accrue the free agent stars or All Pro players other teams do. The cliché line ‘next man up’ is 100% accurate with his program and everyone buys into it.
Both Belichick and Quin adopt this strategy with their teams, i.e. fitting in with the organization and working towards its goals is more important than raw talent alone. You can apply this in your business too when recruiting new staff, i.e. the person with the best resume will not always be the best person for the job.
Creating the Right Culture Will Give You the Edge
Of course, having a team of players who all want to work together to achieve the ultimate prize is not, in itself, enough. You need a strategy as well (the plays you run on the field) but most importantly you need to establish a culture. In other words, your organization’s values and what it believes. To establish this culture, you have to define it, you have to live it (leading by example), and you have to put in place processes that help the organization achieve it. Leading by example is one of the biggest keys to transformational leadership. His players buy in to what he preaches because he, himself, puts in all the hard work. If you are trying to lead a team of people within your home based business, you need to show each one of them that you are working hard, which will result in their motivations to follow suit.
As John Brubaker states in his February–2015 contribution to Entrerpreneur,com, “Belichick knows that culture beats strategy every time. He knows it’s not the Xs and Os that win championships. It’s the Jimmys and Joes. He also knows talent alone isn’t enough. At the highest levels, all players are talented. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there.
The beauty of what Belichick has done is that he has created an environment where good personnel can achieve great results. So run your business like Bill Belichick. Follow his blueprint and you can do the same thing without a roster of overpaid employees.
The biggest factor in the Patriots’ success is the use of a comprehensive, highly targeted screening mechanism to find players who are the right fit. The philosophy is that fit trumps talent for every position. And this process filters out the wrong prospects.”
A good example of how Belichick (and Quinn) did this while developing his team was to bring in the Navy Seals. They were able to convey transformational leadership lessons by stressing the importance of things like teamwork, resilience, and how to handle stressful situations. It also helped establish a culture of toughness.
You don’t have to bring the Navy Seals into your organization, but you should work to create the right culture. This can be challenging when you have a widespread and often self-employed team, so you have to take a proactive approach that reinforces your company’s culture at every possible opportunity.
Another lesson that you can learn from the way Belichick’s transformational leadership is in his approach to the roles each player has… You can translate this to the people working in your organization. At the Patriots, every job title and role comes with real responsibilities. There are no honorary titles, and nobody is given a role that either has no responsibilities or no clearly defined responsibilities. When you give people meaningful roles with real responsibility you empower them which leads to higher levels of motivation and improved performance.
Belichick does this with his team and he expects everyone to do their job well. In addition, he expects the people in the organization to hold each other to account. A good example is the captains he appoints. Belichick’s captains don’t just get the title – they get responsibilities and they are expected to deliver on them.
“Here are some ways to incorporate “Do your job!” sensibilities into how we, as business leaders, manage and lead:
As you can see, he is a huge fan of Belichick’s transformational leadership qualities—especially the mantra of ‘Due Your Job!’.
We all know that it takes transformational leadership to not only take your home-based business, but ANY business, to the next level. All leaders are looking for ways to get better by researching and studying those figures in our society that do it right and do it the right way. They lead teams of hard working people that are all in it for the same thing creating the same results: winning. The Patriots organization and Bill Belichick have shown the world that anything is possible and proved all the doubters and haters wrong, over and over.
Excellent leadership led both the Patriots and the Falcons to the Super Bowl, while exceptional transformational leadership helped the Patriots get the edge on the day. Both head coaches, however, are examples that all leaders should try to model themselves on.