4 lessons leaders can take from Tom Brady's reaction to Deflategate

As the New England Patriots start training this week, they will still enter the 2015 regular season as a favorite in the American Football Conference.

But their effort to emulate last season, in which they handily won the AFC championship game and went on to win the Super Bowl, got infinitely more complicated Tuesday, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his alleged role in deflating footballs used in the AFC championship game.

The ruling raised questions about Mr. Brady's availability during the first month of the season, as well as his honesty and credibility.

Honesty and credibility are important characteristics for any leader, whether they are leading a football team, hospital or health system.

Here are four things for hospital and health system leaders to consider in light of Mr. Brady's situation.

1. Perception is reality. The NFL based its decision mainly on Mr. Brady's request for an assistant to destroy a cell phone he had used the week of the AFC championship game. However, Mr. Brady disputed accusations that he had destroyed his phone to hide evidence from the NFL.

"I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 after my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under any circumstances…," Mr. Brady said in a statement posted early Wednesday morning on his Facebook page. "More importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at any time, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC championship game in January. To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong."

A good leader is honest, but also appears to be honest. It's important that leaders be upfront with employees and not appear to be hiding anything from them.

2. Costs are involved. Mr. Brady was suspended in May over the scandal, but the scandal cost his team more than that. Overall, the scandal cost the New England Patriots franchise $1 million and two draft picks.

Leaders of hospitals and health systems who are dishonest also can end up costing their organization time, manpower or money.

3. Even perceived dishonesty can tarnish a reputation. While plenty of people are behind Mr. Brady — his Wednesday Facebook posting drew more than 1,000 comments within minutes, most from supportive New England Patriots fans — there are those who believe the allegations. And no matter what happens from here out, Mr. Brady and the New England Patriots' accomplishments, for some, have become sullied.

The same concept applies to hospitals and health systems. When a leader is dishonest, it reflects the entire organization.

4. Honesty is important from the very beginning. Mr. Brady's attorneys didn't inform the NFL that Mr. Brady's phone had been broken until June 18, almost four months after investigators had requested phone data from Mr. Brady and five days before an appeals hearing. The quarterback began using his new phone March 6, leading the NFL to believe the previous one had been destroyed that day.

Leaders should always be honest from the beginning. If you delay your side of the story, then the circumstances can make you look suspicious. 


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