The Last Dance: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin & Dennis Rodman
There has been much said and wrote about the Netflix series "The Last Dance" some positive, some negative, but no matter what side of the fence you sit on it was compelling viewing. It is exactly why Netflix spent big money on putting this together!
Growing up in the 80's Basketball for me was a sport that I could and loved to watch. I had no idea of the rules other than the two points/ three points shooting areas and that you couldn't just pick the ball up and peg it towards the net in the attempt to score. I loved the fact that it seemed physical and occasionally the odd handbags at 10 paces broke out, but once the Barcelona Olympics came around in 1992, it was something that I spent hours watching.
Like so many Brits of my vintage, I grew up watching the era dominated by the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics, it was the teams that were highlighted on the TV in the UK at the time and everyone knew of "Magic" Johnson.
For many, the 92' Olympics was the first time that we were introduced to "The Dream Team" and the true talent of American Basketball. This fact that they went on to become Gold Medalists and the whole controversy of Jordan draping the American flag to hid the Reebok logo, is still talked about today, that in itself must have been worth the multi million dollar deal that Reebok shelled out alone.
Below: “Dream Team” members Scottie Pippen, left, Michael Jordan, center, and Clyde Drexler, pose with their gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
The one thing that was evident was that Jordan was loyal to his brand and that by hook or by crook, he was not going to be promoting anything other than his interest during the medal ceremony. This caused significant debate, however this was someone who was going to stick to their guns on the subject and not give an inch.
JORDAN and the Bulls and the other team
Michael Jordan signed for the Chicago Bulls in 1984 (to put this in context I was 4), by the time that he finally retired (for the final time) in 2003, he had racked up over 1,070 games scoring over 32,000 points with an average of 30.1 points per game. He had won 6 NBA Championships, 6 NBA Final MVP awards, appeared 14 times as an All-Star and 2 Olympic Gold Medals, however even the mighty Michael Jordan couldn't work his magic for the Washington Wizards.
During his time at the Chicago Bulls, Jordan would train hard and party hard (although no one appeared to party as hard as Dennis Rodman) and started to set an extremely high standard. Arguably more talented that Kobi (in my opinion), Jordan become notorious for setting what many claimed to be an unachievable benchmark in his quest for victory and perfection. This had far reaching consequences outside the team, as players where exposed to a barrage should MJ feel they were not giving 100%.
JORDAN the Basketballer, JORDAN the Leader
Jordan was for all intents and purposes a pure Basketball scholar. He learnt every part of the game and practice was just something that was expected to occur without question. Here are the three things why I think Jordan is not only an amazing Basketballer, but a Leader.
Jordan learned ALL aspects of the game. Both offence and defence. It is something that every leader should emulate in my opinion. His knowledge gave him the confidence to execute in any circumstance that he found himself. He was not afraid to make tough or unpopular decisions and achieved this without bringing in emotion, something that a number of current leaders struggle to achieve. Because Jordan studied his team, his organisation, his teammates and his opponents, he was able to use this knowledge to not only propel his team to complete two three-peats, but into NBA folk-law and himself become arguably the greatest player of all time.
We live in a society where it is now founded upon to make business decisions, in the fear that someone may get upset or have their feelings hurt. This is the new black cloud over CEO. CEO's and executives now want to be liked, rather than be respected for doing their jobs. Lets cut to the chase, you become a CEO or executive to make money and make the business money. Shareholders and board members want results not hugs.
Jordan's expectation was that you would do your job, execute it to a high level of precision and effectiveness and achieve this by learning and implementing what you have leaned. Everyone was held to a high standard, if you were not able to meet that high standard, you weren't in Jordan's team.
Be Like MJ - LEADERSHIP: Learn, be versatile, be tough! Ask yourself these questions. What are you doing to learn all aspects of the business? What can you improve right now, to better lead your team? and use the toolkit of past experiences, knowledge and failures to up-skill to become a more effective leader.
Jordan trusted his team, the team that Coach Jackson had build and the team that Jordan himself led. He built this trust by observing and learning his teams weaknesses, enabled them to grow in these areas and expected mastery. Jordan would often single individuals out both for praise and criticism in equal. No one was immune to being Jordan's game changer and by the same effect no one was immune to receiving Jordan's wrath. But Jordan expected his team mates to call him out, it worked both ways. He built an environment where he was No. 1, pivotal to success but listened to the coaches and trusted his team makes so much that he knew, they would come up with ideas or suggestions for the good of the organisation in winning Championships.
This was no more evident in how other players were given the responsibility of big shots in key games and in huge moments. The example of John Paxson in Game 6 of the 1993 Finals was a key bit of viewing. The Bulls, down by 2 points against the Phoenix Suns instead of the expected Jordan clutch shot, the ball was passed to Paxson who nailed a 3-point shot to win the game. Jordan Trusted Paxson implicitly, to do the right thing, make the right choice and win the game. He knew that Paxson had trained and had the same desire to achieve the collective goal, TRUST played a huge part.
Throughout the Netflix series, Jordan is heard talking about wanting his team to not back down, to fight and stand up for each other. This can not be achieved in sport or business if you do not trust your people, your team and the leadership.
Be Like MJ - TRUST: Resist the temptation to run on your own. You can't achieve greatness by yourself. Surround yourself with talented, capable people who share your vision, and trust them to help the business or team succeed.
LOVE THE PRESSURE
If you want to be liked, don't have a career where you have to make decisions, key critical decisions, where you actions have a direct impact on everyone in an organisation or business, if you can't handle this, go work in HR!
This may seem harsh, its the same as people who believe that "starting with WHY" is a thing. Taking responsibility for an entire business can be stressful, taking ownership and responsibility for an entire city, franchise, fan base and wider team would be immense.
One of Michael Jordan’s greatest strengths was his ability to deliver when under pressure. In tight high pressure situations when his team needed a result, Jordan was always willing to step up and make the play. His need to win and his competitive nature drove him to deliver when it mattered most! He thrived under pressure and this was underpinned by his belief in his skill and ability and his ability to control his emotions in these moments.
His sphere of influence was and still is far bigger than most leaders today. Jordan walked the walk and talked the talk. He never wrapped people in cotton wool, he was honest and that sometime hurt people
Be Like MJ - LOVE PRESSURE: Be confident in your decision-making skills, use your experience to guide you and never let emotions get in the way. You are supposed to be a leader so don’t shy away from the responsibility of making tough decisions and leading!
Over the last 10 years, I would say that I have worked under four True leaders in Australia, out of a population of around 25 million people that is a tiny percentage. I would say that I know around 50 people who I would class as a Leader, which in a population of just over 7.5 billion isn't much better. But I will say this, Let us be lead by a Jordan and let us strive for greatness!
Above: Michael Jordan 2009 Hall of Fame Career Highlights video taken from YouTube
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
There has been much said recently around the Netflix series "The Last Dance" what it highlighted was #michaeljordan and his desire to win at all costs for Chicago Bulls.