“Winning Has a Price; Leadership Has a Price”

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Michael Jordan The Price of Leadership

In one short segment pulled from The Last Dance, Michael Jordan shares these powerful statements:

  • “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…”
  • “Once you joined the team, you lived at a certain standard that I played the game and I wasn’t going to take anything less.”
  • “People see this (high expectation) and say ‘he’s a tyrant!’ That’s because they never won anything. I wanted to win, but I wanted my teammates to win and be a part of that as well.”
  • “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.”

The clip ends with Jordan in tears, calling for a break…

Is Michael Jordan the best to have ever played the game? I sure think so! Is he the self-centered ego-maniac that so many others with even remotely similar fame have become? Not that I’ve ever seen… Was he a tyrant to play with or just driven to win? I believe that particular segment paints the picture of a guy who wanted to win but also cared about helping the people around him win… Was he the best example of leadership that I’ve seen? Not even close, but if I’m going to make a statement like that I need to explain why!

To this point, we’ve looked at how he combined extreme talent with an unsurpassed worth ethic to earn a level of fame and influence that few have ever seen. Then we dug into how that influence contributed to teams he played on, the Chicago Bulls organization, the teams he played against, and the entire NBA. But with that type of presence, there’s bound to be a rough patch here or there…

There were certainly folks looking to poke holes in his image, be that through calling attention to his gambling or making claims about how terrible he was to his teammates. I’ll be doing no such thing here. But as I’ve tried to do up until now, I am going to pull some leadership lessons from even the less than glamorous examples he provided. Again, I’m not making a case for whether or not he was a great leader - only that we can pull some great leadership lessons from the influence he earned as the greatest basketball player of all time!

Winning does indeed have a price. Jordan paid that price time and time again. Leadership also has a price. And anyone with leadership responsibility needs to understand that someone will always pay that price; we’ll either choose to pay it ourselves or choose to pass that price on to our teams…

As we bring this to a close, we’ll look at the high expectations that come with a high level of influence, the importance of always having strong mentors to follow, and how critical it is to have someone to be accountable to regardless of how strong our influence becomes. Stay tuned…