How to lead like Phil Jackson

phil jacksonThis article originally posted on MoneyWatch:   We learned this week that Phil Jackson‘s new book, “Eleven Rings,” summarizes “Tribal Leadership” in the first chapter and refers to it throughout his book. You can see his references to “Tribal Leadership,” which I co-authored with others, here.

This post will focus on the three things that made Jackson’s leadership unusual, and unusually effective. We can all learn from them:

1. Reject the “one way to leadership” myth. There are many who simply stumble on a leadership process that seems to work and proclaim it the only way to go. But leadership is an endless journey of discovery. The best leaders never stop their quest. I’ve written about “Leadership Tourette Syndrome,” where authors refer not to leadership but to something else — religion, psychology, anthropology. They stick in the L-word wherever they can and sell more books.

Jackson cites Lao Tzu, Stephen Covey, the Lakota Indians, Buddhism and many other sources. Credit for this mix must also be given to his “Eleven Rings” co-author, Hugh Delehanty. The New York Times criticized the two for creating an unwieldy conglomeration from such diverse sources (including “Tribal Leadership”). I would counter that leadership does emerge from a search for the “one way,” but that great leaders never stop there. Those who are truly successful — who win 13 NBA championship rings, two as a player and 11 as a coach — synthesize many approaches draw upon many different — and seemingly discordant — sources.

In his book, Jackson acknowledges these and takes us along on a journey through which he gets them to work together. He recognizes that settling on any single approach, method, process or framework will threaten his capacity to lead.

2. Make your team part of the search. Many languages do not have separate words for “teaching” and “learning.” The two are part of the same process. Jackson is an example of a true teacher and a true learner. I’m writing this blog post just after the University of Southern California has graduated anotherExecutive M.B.A. class. The USC E.M.B.A. creates the same “stage 4 tribe” that Jackson says was the key to his teams’ success, and it does so better than any program I know. Many students came by to thank me for what they had learned in my leadership course. But to be truthful, whatever they learned from me is equal in degree to what I learned from them. Jackson was successful because he turned the teams he coached into learning communities.

3. Pass on what you learn, missteps and all. It’s that time of year when many of us sit through endless graduation speeches.The best of these, as with great books, take us on a journey that may not make sense. Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford is a case in point, and it is probably unparalleled. In “Tribal Leadership,” Scott Adams (creator of “Dilbert”) told us how the speech had inspired him. Jobs’ address became wildly famous after his death. Like Jackson’s book, it tells the story of his journey. Tell your own story, share with others what you’ve learned, what you tried and how it worked, and don’t leave out the mistakes. Many, though not all, will take it as their starting point.

“Eleven Rings” came out in advance of Father’s Day. Parenting and leadership have much in common. If you’re looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift, give your dad Jackson’s book and write a note of thanks to him for taking you with him on a leadership journey. And promise him you’ll do the same for your kids.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

 

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