Tom Brady has now won more Super Bowls than any other player in NFL history.
And in the minutes after the game, we got a small insight into why he’s so successful — after he kept using the same single word over and over and over.
You probably saw this unfold if you watched the game to the end: the giant scrum that erupted at midfield afterward, as CBS journalist Tracy Wolfson tried to get an interview with Brady, but he kept eluding her to embrace and congratulate other players.
It was fascinating in that we could hear snippets of the private conversations he was having on the field. The first player he rushed to embrace was Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
“Cookie!” Brady yelled, as he pushed through the crowd on national television, to hug Cooks. “Love you man. Love you. You had an unbelievable year.”
Then, Rams running back C.J. Anderson (it was tough to hear what they said), but then Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. It’s an emotional, but we can hear what Brady says at the end of their embrace: “I love you dude. I love you dude.”
Brady also has a long embrace with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Again, it’s a scrum, and you can’t make out much of what’s being said. But at the very end: “I love you.”
Let’s talk a bit about that word: love.
Some of us are afraid of it. Others probably use it too quickly, maybe too often. But we all know that it’s probably the most powerful emotion and feeling.
As I saw Brady telling player after player (and an owner) that he loved them, I thought of an Army officer I interviewed in Iraq back in 2007. He had a family back home, and the separation of multiple combat tours was taking its toll.
He was starting to wonder whether he should get out of the military — but every time he thought of it, he stopped. Why did he stay?
“I love Joe,” he told me. (“Joe” being slang for soldiers).
To hear Brady saying that word over and over: “Love you.” “Love you dude.” “I love you.”
It was striking. It’s part of the key to true leadership. I know of course that after winning a sixth Super Bowl, it was an emotional time for everyone on that field.
But even so, it was notable. How often do you profess love for your work colleagues? For the people who work for you?
I wrote recently about how Brady says the same simple four-word phrase to every new player on the Patriots when he meets them: “Hi, I’m Tom Brady.”
It’s obvious, right? Except that it’s not necessary.
Everybody who joins the Patriots knows who Tom Brady does. But besides being nice, and friendly, it sort of bridges the gap with new players who haven’t proven themselves yet.
This four letter word, “love,” does something very similar.
If you truly want to be a leader, and you want the people you’re leading to trust you implicitly, I think you have to be willing to let yourself love them.
Sometimes, you have to make sure that they know it. And sometimes, it means being willing to say it.