Running with the Bulls
Another example of Phil Jackson’s leadership capacities was his ability to work with and help his player’s grow as people; but to do that, Jackson realized that his own development and evolution was of utmost importance. Helsing and Lahey describe this personal growth as a third requirement in self-transformational leadership which they established as, “Understand own selves and leadership identities as always revisable (and) evolving.”1 In order to be a highly developed coach, one must be willing to grow, change, and learn through experience.
In this way, Jackson’s highly developed mental capacity would allow him to navigate challenging interpersonal relationships with “larger than life” personalities and bullish egos, including two legends of the game in Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Just as Jackson’s self-transformational mind allowed him to naturally gravitate towards supporting an adaptive learning environment, he was also inclined to intuitively support his players towards having a growth mindset, a cognitive skill that Dweck proposes as essential for transformational development.2
For example, Jackson recalled, “In general, I tried to give Michael (Jordan) room to figure out how to integrate his personal ambitions with those of the team.”3 Dweck supported this coach’s instinct specifically in the realm of athletics (in which she also coincidentally cites Jordan), as she found, “Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving . . . found setbacks motivating . . . took charge of the processes that bring success—and that maintain it.”4 Although the growth mindset is not related to Kegan’s constructive-developmental theory (CDT) and may or may not be necessarily indicative of any particular order of mind or level of development, it is the manner in which Jackson supports this type of growth in his athletes that highlights his own developmental and leadership capacities.
This leadership would certainly be tested by some extremely volatile personalities, none of which was more challenging than Jackson’s ever-evolving relationship with Bryant. Early in the player’s legendary career with the Lakers, Jackson recalled that, “He was so confident in his ability that you couldn’t simply point out his mistakes and expect him to alter his behavior. He would have to experience failure directly before his resistance would start to break down. It was often an excruciating process for him and everyone else involved.”5 Although coaches at socialized or even self-authoring forms of mind may have the ability to hold and be aware of their players’ needs, interests, and desires, there was something remarkable in the way Jackson handled this relationship.
Jackson’s self-transformational mind allowed him to approach and relate to Bryant with tremendous perspective, as he recounted, “Anger is an energizing emotion that enhances the sustained attention needed to solve problems and leads to more flexible ‘big picture’ thinking . . . I had a lot practice working with my anger that year, and Kobe was my main teacher.”6 Amazingly, Jackson is able to reverse the power dynamic at hand between Bryant and himself; rather than simply trying to “get through” to the young and immature player, the wise coach viewed this relationship as something that he himself could personally learn and develop from.
This ability to hold his own ideology of self-authorship as object is indicative of the self-transformational mind that can, “hold on to many different perspectives and make an informed decision that takes competing perspectives into account but is driven by their own sense of mission or values.”7 Although Jackson and Bryant may have been at odds on many issues, particularly earlier in Bryant’s career—Jackson was able to maintain a greater perspective and allow their relationship to actively grow one another in their common quest to win championships together.
There are many other examples that demonstrate Jackson’s highly advanced order of mind and his ability to manage challenging interpersonal relationships and group dynamics. His recollection of past seasons, teams, and players throughout his book demonstrate a man who is able to hold his own self-authorship, ideology, and identity as object, all capacities indicative of a self-transformational leader.8 He seems to be aware of the fact that he is actually in a co-creative process with all of his experiences and his relationships; in this way, Jackson’s self-transformational mind allows him to embody a distinct elegance in which he knows that not only is he creating the world around him, but the world is creating him as well.9 Jackson’s leadership capacities geared towards interpersonal relationships were deeply influenced by his spiritual path once again, as he recited from the Tao Te Ching, “The wise leader is of service: receptive, yielding, following. The group member’s vibration dominates and leads, while the leader follows. But soon it is the member’s consciousness which is transformed, the member’s vibration which is resolved.”10
In his own words, Jackson fittingly explained, “The soul of success is surrendering to what is.”11 This expansive nature, defined by a highly developed self-transformational mind, drives his commitment towards personal evolution and also inspires the growth of those around him. For example, Bryant displays his own remarkable transformation as he described Jackson’s mentorship as, “a philosophy of how to live. Being present and enjoying each moment as it comes. Letting my children develop at their own pace . . . I learned that all from Phil.”12 The impact that Jackson has on his players is clearly special—perhaps even more impressive than his eleven championship rings.
As a coach, developing oneself may lead to greater player and team performance, but most importantly, it will support the personal development and growth of young men and women.
1 Helsing, D., & Lahey, L. (2010). Unlocking leadership potential: Overcoming immunities to change. In Bunker, K., Hall, D.T., & Kram, K.E. (Eds.), Extraordinary leadership: Addressing the gaps in senior executive development (69-94). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 76
2 Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.
3 Jackson, P., & Delehanty, H. (2013). Eleven rings: The soul of success. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, p. 97
4 Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House, p. 98-101
5 Jackson, P., & Delehanty, H. (2013). Eleven rings: The soul of success. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, p. 217
6 Jackson, P., & Delehanty, H. (2013). Eleven rings: The soul of success. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, p. 269-270
7 Garvey Berger, J. (2012). Changing on the job: Developing leaders for a complex world. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, p. 41
8 Shore, S.K. (2014). The rough notes: Identifying orders of mind. (Unpublished class notes). Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
9 McNamara, R.L. (2012). The elegant self: A radical approach to personal evolution for greater influence in life. Boulder, CO: Performance Integral.
10 Jackson, P., & Delehanty, H. (2013). Eleven rings: The soul of success. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, p. 121
11 Jackson, P., & Delehanty, H. (2013). Eleven rings: The soul of success. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, p. 334
12 Jackson, P., & Delehanty, H. (2013). Eleven rings: The soul of success. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, p. 317