Seeing the Same Field: Drawing From Tom Brady’s… | Gagen MacDonald

Insights & Events / Blog

Seeing the Same Field: Drawing From Tom Brady’s Playbook to Drive AI Adoption

Apr 30, 2024


Each season, Tom Brady famously sought to have everybody on the offense see the field how he saw it. He spent hours and hours in the film room with teammates, explaining how he would process and approach different scenarios in an upcoming matchup. I think this style of preparation played a huge part in Brady’s many improbable fourth-quarter feats. Many leaders know the importance of preparation, of course, but often (especially in the NFL), they approach it with an emphasis on rote memorization. They think more about whether everyone is prepared to do as they’re told and less about whether they’re prepared to read the field.

Teams that are run in this drill-sergeant fashion might find success as long as the game goes according to script, but when it’s time to adapt — when there’s no time to tell everyone exactly where to be and what to do — they often struggle.

Meanwhile, the organizations that take the time to truly distribute leadership — that teach their people not just what to do but how to think — are usually well-positioned to improvise and improve.

Of course, football players aren’t the only ones being asked to improvise. Disruption and pressure to adapt are norms of nearly every job today, and as companies undertake increasingly complex strategic initiatives to stay relevant, they would be wise to remember how Tom Brady prepares his teammates.

Take Artificial Intelligence (AI) adoption, for example. The challenge presents a unique, urgent priority for businesses today, but in many ways, it is not very different from that of any other major strategy execution initiative. The leaders who succeed in driving it — who manage risk and build real guardrails while still fostering cross-functional collaboration, innovation and productivity — will prove their mettle. And I don’t think they will get there by ordering people around.

Rather, in the fashion of Tom Brady, the most successful leaders of AI adoption will recognize the limits of what they can control or predict within this rapidly evolving, largely unregulated technology landscape. Instead of command-and-control leadership, they will lean toward freedom within a framework — toward empowering employees to see the field as the leaders see it, to experiment and to truly use their minds as new scenarios emerge.

What are the main opportunities you see with AI? What about the biggest risks? What are you still trying to figure out? How do you choose between different priorities when they conflict?

The more your people understand your answers to these questions, the better equipped they’ll be to solve problems, harness opportunities and stay aligned with what’s important as the game veers off the playbook.

With love,


/ Feb 26, 2024

Five Priorities in 2024 for Human-Centric Leaders

Previous Post
/ Apr 30, 2024

Finding the Mindful Moments With AI

Next Post