One of the things that separate good and great players is not just their basketball talent and skillset but also mental toughness that comes along with it. Being a great leader is somewhere where a lot of great players have failed, while others have succeeded, which lead to astonishing successes for their franchises. Different players have various leadership styles, and that is something that largely depends on their personality.
Michael Jordan was a fierce competitor who demanded greatness not just from himself but also his teammates and everyone involved. Jordan knew that winning an NBA championship isn’t an easy task and that everyone on the team must be completely inline when it comes to this responsibility. He never took the days off, so he expected the same from his teammates, which didn’t suit quite well with some of them. Jordan would often argue with Horace Grant about taking days off and earlier in his career; he immediately confronted Orlando Woolridge, who wanted to fight Jordan.
“If you want to win, you have to pay the price- it’s not that complicated. If somebody didn’t want to hear that from me, fine. But go play somewhere else. A leader has to be willing to sacrifice to help everyone else get to where a team needs to go. No one could take days off with the Bulls because I never took a day off. Horace Grant and I had a falling out because he wanted a day off here and there, and I would chastise him for it. I challenged Orlando Woolridge early in my career, and he wanted to fight me.”
One of the things that leaders have is the tremendous responsibility which Jordan perfectly understood immediately after his arrival to the NBA. It didn’t take long for Jordan to assert himself as the leader on the Bulls and set standard other players would have to follow. Jordan said every great organization is structured in that way, and after every championship, the Bulls won, Jordan’s standard other players had to follow increased. However, unlike many others, Jordan also raised his level, which was one of the reasons why he asked the same from his teammates.
“I earned that responsibility. I wasn’t making anything close to my value on the basketball court, but I never allowed that to affect the way I played. Once I gave my word and signed on the dotted line, I stuck with it. That’s what leaders do. They set a standard, and everyone has to live up to that standard if it’s a good standard. It’s the same in every great organization. Whoever comes in has to live up to the same standard. You have to rise up to our level. We’re not going to drop down to yours.”
Only a handful of players had that kind of mentality and approach to the game, with Kobe Bryant being one of them. He learned a lot from Jordan, who often gave valuable pieces of advice on how to lead a team and have them follow you as a leader. Those are the things you can’t learn overnight, but both Jordan and later on Kobe were able to motivate their teammates enough to give their best and rise to any challenge by being prepared continuously and focused on the ultimate goal, which is the NBA championship.