Be like Mike” Build your skills to lead

In the past few months, you might have found yourself watching the 2005 Daytona 500 (Dale Earnhardt Jr. won this race) or 1984 Cubs and Cardinals baseball game (June 23, 1984, Ryne Sandberg had seven RBIs) multiple times.

What else could we watch during this pandemic? There are not even sports commentators on at their scheduled times. When ESPN aired “The Last Dance,” a documentary about Michael Jordan, all sports fans tuned it — my home included. At last, something new.

Jordan and the Chicago Bulls have a special place in our home. In 1993 we named our first-born son Jordan, in 1996 my husband was at the Bulls’ 70th win, in 1997 I accompanied my husband to Grant Park in Chicago for the championship celebration. Our home is even littered with Bulls memorabilia.

To rewatch highlights of MJ’s career took me back on memory lane. It also enlightened me to MJ’s incredible leadership talents. His success was greater than his physical talent.

Don’t get me wrong, MJ has amazing basketball talent that got him into the game. However, talent alone is never enough. Many talented athletes do not last long in the professional leagues. What is it that separated Michael from the rest of his peers? In the business world, we call his true talents “soft skills.”

It was Michael’s passion, focus, practice, commitment, dedication and teamwork that brought him tremendous success. These skills are far from being “soft.” These are “power skills.” They make you a powerful leader.

It’s no different in the business world. It’s not your technical knowledge that will excel you forward. Anyone can learn technical knowledge if they want to. It’s these power skills that make you stand apart.

My favorite story in “The Last Dance” was told by MJ’s trainer, Tim Grover. In 1990, the Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs by the Detroit Pistons for the second consecutive year. Assuming Michael would take some time off away from basketball before returning to the gym, Grover told MJ to let him know when he is ready to get back to his workouts. Michael’s answer was “see you tomorrow.” He knew that he needed to get stronger if he wanted to win any future championships. There was no break for Michael.

This is what leaders do, they need to stay out front. “Leading” means that you are out front leading by example, continually improving. When you stop improving and are passed up, then you have stopped leading. No one was going to outwork MJ. No one was going to commit more than he did.

How are you setting the pace for your team? What are you doing to lead by example? What do you do to continually improve your talents and power skills? If you are not getting better at your passion, focus, commitment and teamwork — then you might not be leading.