Leadership Contributions - The Impact of His Influence

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Michael Jordan Contributions

From the time he joined the Bulls, it was very clear that very few approached the game like he did. Turning around a team that was rumored to drink beer and smoke cigarettes at halftime, and do far worse in their hotel rooms after the games, wouldn’t be a simple task! The contributions Jordan made to the Bulls organization started having an impact almost immediately but I’m definitely not suggesting any of that was easy…

In The Last Dance, Michael says “Winning has a price, and leadership has a price. I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right…”

When he made that statement in the series, it was more of a rebuttal to a question about whether or not he was viewed as a tyrant. If we’re going to pull leadership lessons from the greatest basketball player of all time though, I don’t believe we can consider that statement from just the perspective of playing on the same team with him - or even whether or not everyone always liked his approach… I believe we need to also look at the impact he had on the performance of the individuals on the team, the organization as a whole, as well as the impact he had on so many who competed against him.

In the same segment where he talked about the price of winning and leadership, Jordan talked about this approach that may have caused some to view him as a tyrant. He said, “it’s who I am, it’s how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don’t want to play that way, don’t play that way.” 

I’ll say it once more for anyone in the back who may have missed it; I’m not making a case for whether or not MJ was a great leader but I am completely convinced we can pull outstanding leadership lessons for the contributions he made through the influence he earned. One significant contribution he made through that influence was raising the level of performance of everyone on that team. Just because he said “if you don’t want to play that way, don’t play that way,” doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have walked all over anyone who wasn’t giving it all they had!

As a leader, we have a responsibility to our organizations as well as every individual stakeholder to bring out the best possible performance in every single member of our teams. While our approach will vary significantly from what he’s said to have taken on the basketball court, the goals we’re striving to achieve probably won’t vary.

For right now though, let’s push aside any verbal communication and just look at the impact one member of a team can have when they’re work ethic even resembles his. I can’t think of a single time where I’ve worked side by wide with someone who was doing all they possibly could to reach our goal and that didn’t push me to give a little extra - even when I thought I was already doing all I could! The best in any field always tend to raise the level of performance of those around them. And that’s exactly what I remember enjoying most about watching Jordan play when I was a kid! I truly believe his team members had better careers that they would have ever had with any other team. I also believe those who played on other teams played their best games when they faced him - otherwise he would have made them look just plain foolish, and sometimes he still did…

His all in, all the time approach improved the overall performance of the team and the organization, but it wasn’t solely based on anyone’s desire to keep from looking like a schmuck. Some of the best in that business at the time wanted something from him that they’d only get one way, and we’ll pick up there next time…