Phil Jackson is one of the all-time great coaches in the history of the NBA. He has won more NBA championships – 11 – than any other coach in the league’s history. One of the big reasons for his success was his leadership style. Sure, Jackson knew plenty about basketball. He knew the Xs and the Os, but he also knew that winning championships was more than just basketball. That influenced his leadership style.
Lose the Ego
Many of those who become head coaches in any professional sport have fairly large egos. It kind of goes with the territory. For Jackson, he learned to dial his back. Too often, coaches try to exert power directly and it simply doesn’t work.
Jackson allowed all of his players – from the rookie to the seasoned veteran – to have a voice. It was almost as if he gave each player his own leadership role. That strengthened his team and helped to foster success.
The Real Key to Success
In deference to Machiavelli’s “it is better to be feared than loved,” Jackson showed compassion to his players. On a daily basis, Jackson would simply offer a few kind and thoughtful words to players that needed it. Something so simple can have a transformative effect on even the toughest of men. Being compassionate is not a sign of weakness. For Jackson, it helped him break down barriers with his players and, again, led to the Bulls’ and Lakers’ successes.
In the NBA, the focus, of course, is on winning games. Not only is winning games important, but getting to the playoffs and winning an NBA championship is the ultimate goal. Too many coaches and players simply put all of their emphasis on winning that ring. It’s easy to get caught up in being fixated on winning. Players and teams can lose themselves in a flurry of emotion when all they are focused on is winning.
For Jackson, he encouraged players to let go of the outcome. He and his coaching staff would create the best possible conditions for success. The players’ job was to play the game the right way and grow as basketball players (and humans). If they could do that, winning championships would take care of itself. With 11 NBA titles, Jackson and his leadership style proved to be right.