As Entrepreneurs and Founders, we look at other disciplines to learn lessons and get better. The discipline we are analyzing in this blog is sports and the game of basketball. We are big basketball fans here at FREEAG8.
This is a case study of building championship teams and what not to do in leadership. This is the story of The Last Dance and the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Every story has two characters which includes the superhero versus the villain. To completely understand our perspective, watch the video attached before reading the blog.
These lessons are gleaned from the 2020 American sports documentary miniseries, "The Last Dance" focusing on the 1997–98 Chicago Bulls premiering in April. The superhero in this story was Michael Jordan and the villain was Jerry Krause. We give in this blog, from an Entrepreneur's perspective, our leadership lessons from a team that dominated basketball in the 90s.
Pay people what they're worth: In business, we tend to look at situations according to numbers. But the mistake is made when we try to save pennies but lose dollars. Scottie Pippen signed a 5 year, $18 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. Even his agents at that time told him not to sign the contract. But he signed the contract anyways as he had to feed his family and he had a concern about his health and injuries. This created a lot of issues with the GM Jerry Krause as he knew that he was underpaid with regards to his contribution as a 6-Time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls. Even MJ repeatedly defended and praised Scottie Pippen that he was worth more than his contract paid.
Find the right Talent and get out of their way: Many sports analysts would agree during this championship dynasty that GM Jerry Krause was a genius at recruiting players to support MJ. Some of his genius recruiting, that even MJ disagreed with, included Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Phil Jackson. Even though the Chicago Bulls won 6 championships, there was a lot of resentment and animosity with the management. There was even one instance where he told MJ, "You are Bulls property now and we tell you what to do."
As the Leader, take the blame when things go wrong, give the Team credit when things go right: As the Leader, the GM Jerry Krause made one of the worst leadership mistakes. He took credit for the team's hard work and dedication. Management demotivated the players by stating that, "Organizations win championships not players." This created a management versus players toxic culture. The players despised Krause for creating this environment and how he disrespected the players.
I give my mind and body but I kept my soul: This coming from the Zen Master of the NBA realizing it would be his last season. The decision was finalized when Krause stated "I don't care if we go 82-0. Phil is not coming back." Phil accepted this decision and rode off on his motorcycle. The Zen Master got the last laugh as he went to LA and coached the Lakers to 5 championships.
Don't fix something that isn't broken: Many of the players believed with MJ and supporting cast, they could have won another 2-3 championships in Chicago. But they knew it wasn't meant to be without Phil Jackson. Even MJ said he wouldn't play for anyone but Phil Jackson.
People FIRST and ALWAYS (Check Your Ego at the Door!): All the Bull's players knew that Jerry Krause's ego became the downfall of the Chicago Bulls. Several of the players, including Jordan and Pippen, mocked Krause any chance they had. This is the reason Krause let his ego get the best of him and his intent to dismantle this Bulls dynasty as revenge. Unfortunately, Krause would never be able to build another basketball dynasty with the Chicago Bulls and realize the stupidity of his actions when he died in 2017 before The Last Dance came out.
The Last Dance was symbolism for the last season the Chicago Bulls dynasty would play together. With the writing on the wall, everyone in the NBA knew it was over when Phil Jackson quit and Michael Jordan retired. This led to the demise of the Chicago Bulls dynasty towards The Last Dance. As Entrepreneurs and Founders, especially for startups, The Last Dance is a blueprint for how to build a championship dynasty and how to destroy it. Leadership lessons we can all learn from.
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