Leading With Authority
"Winning has a price...and leadership has a price"
We take a look at what made six-time NBA Championship winner Michael Jordan one of the best leaders the world has ever seen and a few aspects, which can help you become a better leader.
Over the last five weeks The Last Dance has taken the world by storm. The 10-part Netflix documentary focuses on the NBA superstar Michael Jordan’s illustrious career, captivating an astronomical amount of viewers from all around the globe.
The documentary, co-produced by ESPN Films and Netflix, follows Jordan and his Chicago Bulls for the 1998 season as they push for their third straight NBA Championship – the second time they are attempting the incredible three-peat feat in the 90’s. The Last Dance provides unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to an athlete in their prime, whilst also capturing modern day insights from various teammates and opponents of Jordan and piecing the narrative together.
A common thread of discussion from his former teammates is how high of a standard MJ demanded every single day, whether in the gym or on the court.
However, does that make him a leader or simply a dictator?
At JPB we would combine these three disciplines to form the perfect leader – a leader through example, a leader providing inspiration and innovation to those they are leading and a leader willing to accept unpopularity amongst the crowd to achieve the desired result.
If we crosscheck these features with Michael Jordan there’s no surprises.
No-one can deny Jordan didn’t lead by example, some might argue no other athlete has ever had more of an influence on an environment than the man famously wearing the #23.
The best player in the world at the time, Jordan rallied a self-confessed motley crew around him through his incredible discipline to training whilst also performing things on the court that simply hadn’t been seen before. Jordan’s determination to win was like oxygen – he had to have it to survive.
“Once you joined the team you live in a certain standard I play the game. And I wasn’t going to take anything less. So I pulled people that didn’t want to be pulled and I challenged people that didn’t want to be challenged, but I earned that right,” Jordan said.
Secondly, Jordan may have gone close to pushing the boundary of inspiration to expectation; however following numerous defeats in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan and coach Phil Jackson identified that no matter how talented he was - MJ couldn’t do everything himself. Together, they would have to build those up around him to achieve their objective of winning an NBA Championship and for the ongoing years Jordan had to release his grip on domineering the game and trust in his teammates to get the job done - best seen in his ultimate faith in teammate John Paxson to hit the Championship winning 3-pointer in the 1993 season. It was the previous years’ of Jordan exuding confidence within the folk around him that allowed the Bulls to be so successful.
“You ask all my teammates the one thing about Michael Jordan was ‘he never asked me to do something that he didn’t f*****g do.’ I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win to be a part of that as well.”
Social media has seen the captivated audience be sceptical of Jordan throughout every dual episode release on a week-by-week basis, criticising him of bullying teammates and running a dictatorship at the Bulls.
“When people see this they’re going to say ‘well he wasn’t really a nice guy he may have been a tyrant, but that’s you – cause you never won anything.’”
Jordan was more than willing to pay the price of popularity within the inner sanctum to achieve the outcome he and his teammates desired so badly. Plenty of people would say they would do that too but it takes tremendous courage to be willing to put yourself on the line like that and stick to your guns. Though when you’re as good as Michael Jordan I guess your guns are worth sticking to.
“It is who I am, it’s how I played the game.”
The greatest thing about being a leader is that it doesn’t require to be undertaken whilst just in a position of leadership. Whether in the office or on the sporting field – leading by example and encouraging inspiration and innovation to those around you is going to hold you in high regard with your peers.
If you’re willing to take the final step in JPB’s leadership model of willing to accept unpopularity in order to achieve the ultimate goal then you will quickly see yourself climbing the leadership ladder wherever that may be.