Recently I read on that the two-time Pro Bowl selection and current free agent Adalius Thomas was having difficulty locating a new team after being cut by the New England Patriots. The reason we are told for this is that every NFL ( team has tape on him from last year and are not impressed.

This is alarming because after the 2006 season, Thomas signed a 5-year, $35 million contract after being the most sought after free agent on the market that summer.

As a leader, here are five takeaways I get from this story.

  1. Everyone has tape on you. People, especially those you lead, are always watching you. They have a mental tape on you and reflect your character and behavior. You are always setting precedent as a leader. People will do what people see.
  2. Most of us are “system players”. In the Baltimore Ravens defense, Thomas was involved in more blitz schemes and allowed to often roam. The Patriots’ defense focused on assignments and decisions. While the money was good, the fit was not. You must determine which system you fit best in. Unless you fit well, you may never see all the money.
  3. Great organizations never pay for average. When you’re highly paid and highly visible, you must produce. The reason sports teaches such good leadership principles is because everything is measurable. Someone wins. Someone loses. Production shows up in the box score. Personnel decisions are then made.
  4. Rebelling against authority never has positive results. Twice during the 2009 season, Thomas accused Head Coach Bill Belichick of treating him like a “kindergartner“. Pride proceeds destruction and a haughty spirit proceeds your fall. Quality organizations deal with insubordination in a swift and decisive fashion.
  5. Failure is not final. Someone will eventually pick Thomas up during training camp or when someone gets injured. There is too much talent there. Thomas, like Cedric Benson last year, has the opportunity to redeem himself. Let’s hope he lands in a good system that allows him to achieve his maximum potential.

In three years, Thomas went from being the most sought after free agent in football to not being sought out at all. As leaders, we must remember people are always watching us. As a result, we will all eventually sit down to a banquet of consequences of our actions and decisions. Make good ones.


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