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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

The Spirituality of Team Work

Certainly, Phil Jackson's accomplishments - the highest winning percentages in both the regular season and the playoffs, among all coaches in NBA history - indicate that he is one of the greatest leaders in the annals of sports. Just as important, however, is how he achieved this amazing record.

When you examine Jackson's life, you see that he has always been committed to the idea that people who work together can accomplish much more than individuals seeking their own personal glory. This is a lesson he must have learned very early in life, growing up with parents who were both pastors. From them, he learned about self-discipline and generosity toward others -- key attributes of leadership.

As a college player at North Dakota, he wasn't the most polished-looking person on the basketball court, but he made the most of his attributes and constantly worked to improve his areas of weakness. Then, with the New York Knicks, where he spent most of his professional playing career, he was the perfect fit for that great club known for its unselfish, team-oriented approach.

The same themes permeate his coaching career. He helped superstars such as Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal adapt to the team concept. That's another mark of a first-rate leader, bringing all the elements of an organization into one strong unit. The results speak for themselves in Phil Jackson's case. Before they played under Jackson, those two players had no championship rings. With him, Jordan won six, and O'Neal won three.

Jackson has been called a "Zen master," and I know spirituality is an important element of his life (as evidenced by the title of one of his books, "Sacred Hoops"). I think what this element has done for him, especially as a leader in the NBA, is to supply the confidence a coach needs to unite a group of individuals into a team. And as he practices these methods, he gives his players the opportunity to observe and learn from his success. That, along with his dazzling coaching record, makes him an exemplary leader.

By Yash Gupta

 |  June 15, 2009; 2:09 PM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Magic Without Magic | Next: The Zen Christian Master

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