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Zen Lessons for Leaders?

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson has now won his 10th NBA championship. Is Jackson the greatest-ever NBA coach? The best coach in professional sports? Does his unconventional use of spirituality provide a lesson for other leaders?

Posted by Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein on June 15, 2009 1:51 PM
Bill George

A Fellow Meditator

Phil Jackson's practice of Buddhism and meditation give him an inner calm and tranquility that enables him to motivate his star professionals in ways that others cannot.

Posted by Bill George, on June 17, 2009 5:22 PM
Mickey Edwards

Calm on the Court

Phil Jackson creates a calm atmosphere in which players are able to remain grounded, self-motivated and avoid frenzy. That's a good recipe for leadership in any arena.

Posted by Mickey Edwards, on June 16, 2009 12:03 PM
Paul R. Portney

Define Great Coaching

Great coaches must also lead their players off the court and able to make teams with different skill levels thrive.

Posted by Paul R. Portney, on June 16, 2009 11:40 AM
Marshall Goldsmith

Practical Zen

Simple Buddhist ideas like "let go of the past", "make peace with what you cannot change" and "be in the moment" are applicable to everything from athletics and business to life.

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith, on June 16, 2009 11:26 AM
John H. Cochran, MD

Reaching the Whole Person

Many coaches teach X's and O's well, but few can reach the entire person like Phil. He understands the soul of the player and really taps into their true being.

Posted by John H. Cochran, MD, on June 16, 2009 12:04 AM
Warren Bennis

Spiritual Doubts

I respect Jackson's character but doubt that spirituality on the hard wood of a basketball court would make much of a difference.

Posted by Warren Bennis, on June 15, 2009 11:57 PM
Andy Stern

Winning is a Not a Formula

No two leaders have the same combination of factors; like DNA, each of us has unique characteristics. In Phil Jackson's case his spirituality is part of his guiding leadership philosophy, and it works for him.

Posted by Andy Stern, on June 15, 2009 2:20 PM

The Zen Christian Master

Phil Jackson said his own approach to coaching "embodied the Zen Christian attitude of selfless awareness." Other leader shouldn't copy him: Instead they should express their own values and vision through their leadership style.

Posted by Michael Maccoby, on June 15, 2009 2:14 PM
Yash Gupta

The Spirituality of Team Work

Jackson has always been committed to the idea that people who work together can accomplish much more than individuals seeking their own personal glory, something he may have learned from his parents, who were pastors.

Posted by Yash Gupta, on June 15, 2009 2:09 PM
Marty Linsky

Magic Without Magic

Phil Jackson made explicit what most great coaches and managers have understood intuitively: that the hardest challenge of leadership is to resist the impulse to take the work off of the shoulders of those who own the problem.

Posted by Marty Linsky, on June 15, 2009 2:05 PM

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cmecyclist: Maybe Jackson's zen "training" allows him to stay calmer - and therefore able to think more clearly - but professional sports is almost the ...

george22_1999: He had Shaq calling himself the big Aristotle-nothing wrong with that(on at east two levels-he had Shaq mulling over the idea that his happi...

mythsdreams: Zen Christianity. It sounds as if Jackson may have discovered Gnosticism, the heretic Christian sect of about the time of Jesus whose spiri...

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