Have you watched The Last Dance on Netflix?
The documentary follows the final season of the 97-98 Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman would all leave after the team would win their sixth NBA Championship in eight years. If you’re a 90s kid or followed the NBA during this era, then it’s a must see.
While Michael Jordan dominates the screen for most of the eight episodes, someone who also stands out is the coach of the team, Phil Jackson. The coach of the Bulls was the individual who coined the phrase “The Last Dance.” But he also had a major impact on the team that can go unnoticed until someone points it out to you.
So just in case you missed it, here’s why Phil Jackson is a leader to be admired.
1. Phil Jackson Recognises Strengths
Jackson never tried to change anyone in the Bulls when he became the head coach. Instead of directing players what to do, he would share information and get their buy-in on why it was a better way. An example of this is the triangle offence. Jackson didn’t tell the team that this was how they were going to play. Instead, he showed them the benefits of it and how, if executed properly, that it could open up more scoring opportunities.
He also didn’t try to move players into positions they weren’t comfortable playing. Jackson knew Dennis Rodman was one of the defensive players in the league, and so he took a hands off approach with him. Instead of telling him what to do, he just offered advice on how he could utilise his strengths better.
2. He Cares About Mental Strength as Much as Physical Strength
There are a few moments in The Last Dance where Phil Jackson discusses his Buddhist beliefs and the importance of a zen mindset. You even get to see the entire Chicago Bulls, including Michael Jordon, participating in a Tai Chi session.
Mindset is important to Jackson, and something he recognises is as important as physical strength. As the team respects their coach, they would gift Jackson with various trinkets and artefacts from the Buddhist religion.
3. Phil Jackson Caters to Individual Needs
One of the plot points in The Last Dance sees Dennis Rodman requesting some time off to head to Vegas. Rodman had been on his best behaviour and acting as a support for Jordan while Scottie Pippen was out injured.
Jackson recognised that Rodman was needing some time to unwind and approved the trip. Jordan didn’t agree and predicted that The Worm wouldn’t return on time. He was right, but Jackson was ok with the extra leave as Dennis needed to be Dennis.
4. He Doesn’t Comment When he Doesn’t Need To
Multiple times during The Last Dance, Jackson is asked to comment on his relationship with the General Manager Jerry Krause. However, the coach remained respectful and didn’t comment on any rumours about things that were or weren’t said.
Despite some of the comments that were allegedly said, Jackson showed a level of class that’s not often seen. He didn’t show any disrespect to Krause, unlike many of the Bull’s players. Particularly Jordan who would openly criticise him on multiple occasions in public.
5. Phil Jackson Celebrates the Wins
Jackson has one of the best winning records in the NBA as a coach. He’s won several championships with different teams. While he looks soft spoken and calm, he has no problem celebrating the wins when they occur.
In The Last Dance, Jackson celebrates winning the Eastern Conference and joins in on the festivities with the rest of the Bulls. He also takes the time to acknowledge their efforts and sacrifices by thanking them personally.
How to Take the First Step
You might think The Last Dance is just a basketball documentary. However, if you look closer, you’ll see that there is a lot you can take away as a leader. Even though Michael Jordan is prominently featured, you can still learn a lot from the minutes that Phil Jackson is featured.
If you need more leadership inspiration, then you should make sure you’re following the Better Boss Blog. You’ll find learnings and advice on how to become a great leader like Phil Jackson. Follow pwf services on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook to get the coaching that you need.