I was sitting on my couch watching the documentary “The Last Dance” with my wife the other night and said “Watch this. Michael Jordan is about to break the Cleveland Cavs hearts.””
She glanced up from what she was doing and said “Oh yeah?”
“Yep,” I said. “He is about to hit a game winner over Craig Ehlo.”
“Craig Ehlo?” she asked.
Right then, the voice over on the documentary said “The Cleveland Cavs decided to have Craig Ehlo guard Michael Jordan…” I nodded with some strange satisfaction as I watched the inbounds pass come to Jordan. He grabbed the pass, hung in the air, and hit the buzzer beater to beat the Cavs. As a Cleveland Cavs fan, I remember that moment too well.
If you have missed it, (and I would think it would be hard to do) The Last Dance is a 10 Part Documentary outlining the last season of the dominant Chicago Bulls basketball team of the 1990’s that featured Michael Jordan. It’s the first time I have been riveted by a TV series or documentary for a long time. As the above story relates, it was an amazing trip down memory lane for me, watching one of the best basketball players ever to lace up his sneakers. I got to re-live some incredible moments and learn some things I did not know as well. I loved it.
But as I watched the series each week, there was on thing I was a bit surprised about.
As people watched the series, there was quite a bit of talk about the idea that Michael Jordan was a jerk. In the documentary, it is repeatedly pointed out how Jordan pushed and challenged his teammates. He was ridiculously competitive, even in practice. Jordan would call out his teammates, get in their face, and on several occasions, get in fights with them. This behavior seemed to shock quite a few viewers…and to be candid that shocked me.
To be clear, I am not condoning punching your teammates in the face. But I think this over the top intensity and focus is one of the reasons entrepreneurs and leaders have always loved Michael Jordan.
They GET Michael Jordan.
If you have ever started an organization, you know the frustration of having people on your team that just don’t care as much as you. There you are, starting early and leaving late. You wake up in the middle of the night, trying to solve problems and overcome adversity. You are passionate, almost to a fault, chasing the goal of your organization. And then, you look at some of the people on your team, and they don’t seem to have that same drive. As a matter of fact, a few of them don’t seem to care at all! It’s in those moments, that leaders can lash out at team members that are not carrying their load.
And in that moment, the team might look at the leader and say “what a jerk!”
So if you haven’t seen The Last Dance, I recommend it. It was incredible story telling…even if you are not a huge sports fan. And for those that are entrepreneurs, leaders and drivers of organizations, take heed. While you are driving people to elevate their games, there will be times that you might not be well liked. But if you are continually making them better (and successful), you will ultimately be well-respected.
But please don’t punch them in the face.
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