Bill Belichick’s 5 Secrets to Being an Exceptional Leader

Bill Belichick isn’t just one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time. He’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of professional sports. With six Super Bowls to his name (and three additional Super Bowl appearances), his ability as a leader is without question. CNBC highlighted Belichick’s five rules of leadership. Whether you’re an athlete or not, there’s plenty of wisdom to gain from his opinion.

‘Be the boss’

Belichick told CNBC the story of leading a special teams meeting as a 23-year-old assistant. A veteran player wasn’t taking it seriously, laughing and joking with a teammate. Rather than allow the disrespect, Belichick told the player to essentially act right or get out. It worked, and the player stopped. 

Despite the player’s relatively high status as a proven member of the team, Belichick was in a position of authority and acted accordingly. It shows that when people have the opportunity to be the leader, they should act like a leader, which includes demanding respect. 

‘Prepare, but be ready to adapt’

Belichick probably prepares more than any coach in the league, but he also understands that when the unexpected occurs, you must be flexible. That’s why you have to be ready to adapt your game plan. Belichick has no problem thinking outside the box.

One example transpired during the 2004 season when injuries decimated the Patriots’ secondary. Belichick turned to wide receiver Troy Brown to log time at cornerback. He wasn’t a superstar at the position, but he played well, helping the Patriots win another Super Bowl that season. 

‘Stick with the people you can depend on’

Belichick has a history of taking chances on players with questionable pasts, like Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, and now, Antonio Brown. He clearly places a premium on talent. But even the best players have let him down, which is why he stresses the importance of his “dependables”:

“They might have been the most talented, or the people you hoped would do the right or best thing, and they didn’t come through … You have to go with the person who you have the most confidence in, the most consistent. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but I’m going down with that person.”

Belichick has never shied away from difficult stars. But he’s also cultivated a culture that relies on dependable athletes like Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Deion Branch, and Troy Brown. 

‘Don’t rest on your laurels’

How many times have you heard Belichick shrug off a win, only to say, “We’re moving on to [insert next week’s team here]”? The 67-year-old is notorious for not spending time fixating on the past. He just looks to the next opponent. Whether it’s in work or life, this helps keep one grounded. The best way to ensure your next big win is to focus on it right away.

‘Care about your people’s personal lives’

To many, Belichick can seem cold and unflinching. But stories about his sense of humor from those who’ve played for him are legendary. So, what does this mean? To the outside world, Belichick presents a different version of himself. To his own players, he’s no-nonsense but also a human being.

Belichick understands his players are human as well. They have personal lives with things that happen, both good or bad. Any leader would do well to remember this. Hard work and dedication to one’s job is important, but sometimes personal events can supersede.