This morning, I was excited to watch the Outside the Lines feature on Michael Jordan’s struggle as an NBA executive. I was excited because I was hoping to pick up a few lessons on leadership, some stories I could share with my team about the dangers of surrounding yourself with “yes men.”
As the story rolled, there was no focus at all on Jordan’s lack of leadership ability and there was no focus on Jordan surrounding himself, either deliberately or not (Jordan is arguably the greatest NBA player in history, he would be a tough person to disagree with), with an executive team that nods their head up and down every time he speaks.
Instead, Outside the Lines continually made excuses for Jordan’s failures (he has built, statistically, the worst team in NBA history) based on owning a “small market team” and “a person can only be successfully in a limited amount of areas in life.”
I’m not even going to address the stupidity of the second statement.
Growing up in Utah and following not only a “small market team” but a destination that most NBA players don’t want to visit, let alone be here fulltime, I have been spoiled watching an executive team put a competitive team on the court year after year. To give Jordan a pass because his team is located in North Carolina seems a bit of a copout seeing first hand that it can be done, with the right leadership at the helm.
WHERE ARE THE TOUGH QUESTIONS? Even those not on Jordan’s payroll are afraid to disagree with him, no wonder he is running a failing organization.
When I started to build a team, one of the first things I did was hire someone whom I have vehemently disagreed with over the years and it has been one of the best decisions I have made.
Greatness rarely comes out of an environment where there are no differences, where there is no creative tension, and where everyone nods their head approvingly whenever the boss is in the room.
The number one lesson I have learned about creating a business is that in order to achieve greatness, you must surround yourself with creative people, who are all focused on a common goal but who feel secure enough to fight for opposing points of view of how to get to that goal.
Everyone in Jordan’s organization is focused on the same goal, yet because no one is willing to disagree with Jordan, everyday they take a step further away from where they really want to be.
Disagreements build greatness, create and foster an environment where creative tension is celebrated.