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The price of leadership

Like many of you, I have been watching The Last Dance. It is a powerful reminder of just how competitive, disciplined, and emotional Michael Jordan was, and still is, about winning at the game of basketball. But the most powerful moment so far has easily been his monologue on leadership at the end of episode 7. Here is that scene. If you can’t see it below, click here.

Watching this brought tears to my eyes. Over the years, I have had teachers, professors, and bosses who have subscribed to this philosophy of leadership. I’m sure many of you have as well. It’s never fun at the time. In fact, it sucks. But usually in hindsight it becomes clearer what that person was trying to accomplish. And you realize how they pushed you to grow.

My own view is that there are ways to win without resorting to emotional bullying. But then it begs the question, if you’re not being extreme, does that reduce performance? Would it have been better for Jordan to be a bit nicer to his teammates, if it meant winning fewer championships? Depends on who you ask.

When you’re determined to move a mountain, win a championship, or create something that has never been done before, it can be incredibly frustrating when you feel as if the team isn’t on the same level or that they don’t care as much as you. So you push. And that’s what Michael did. Winning has a price.

We all need to be challenged. Some people, like Michael, are good at pushing themselves to be the best that they can be. Others need more external help. How best to do that is the great debate. But as Fred Wilson said on his blog earlier this week: “Leadership is not being liked. Leadership is being respected and followed.”


  1. There are a lot of lessons to learn from The Last Dance. My biggest takeaway is that the team matters. Organizational leaders should take notes. In one episode Jordan recalls saying, as a rebuttal to someone saying, “There’s an I in win.” He walked that back when he later came to understand that he needed complementary teammates to win championships. Pippin and Rodman were his wingman. Both the general manager and Phil Jackson understood where the weak points were and how to develop a team that could win. This docuseries is just as much about everyone who helped create the circumstances for Jordan to be the greatest as it is about Jordan himself. And, my favourite “cast member,” hands down is Dennis Rodman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point. This is absolutely one of the biggest takeaways for me. Jordan was always a star, but he didn’t start winning championships until there was a Chicago Bulls team.


  2. Myron Nebozuk

    We all know that you can’t be a leader without followers. But what makes a good follower? MBA programs concentrate on developing leadership skills. Much of what is taught is received as “nudges” that produce reactions in equal and opposite measure amongst some followers. How about an effective follower program?

    Then again, arguing the opposite point, Robert Kiyosaki said something profound recently. I paraphrase: if you think that you will succeed by learning the rules of the capitalist game, think again. There are actually two rule sets in play: socialism for the super wealthy and capitalism for everyone else. This is like that moment in the Matrix when reality falls away and something far more sinister is revealed.


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