If you want to move away from this description, there is a way of thinking – a philosophy of leadership – that works better than anything else.
Equipping and Releasing.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Equipping and Releasing – as an all-encompassing view of your life in ministry – is one of the most effective tools in a leader’s toolbox. It should inform almost everything you do in leading your people.
Today, the illustration. Next time, the rationale.
The year was 1991. Michael Jordan had spent the previous seven seasons at the Chicago Bulls dazzling the world with his skill. He was the stand-out basketball player of his generation and on his way to becoming possibly the greatest player of all time.
But he had no rings.*
You can’t be the greatest without rings. Preferably several rings.
For several seasons, MJ had scored the highest points total in the league. And he loved his coach, Doug Collins, because the Bulls played a system which was effectively, ‘give the ball to Michael.’ MJ carried the team. But it wasn’t enough.
Six seasons and still no rings.
In 1989, the Bulls made a controversial decision to fire Doug Collins and appoint Phil Jackson as the head coach. Phil Jackson, a two-time winner of the NBA championship, was a devotee of Zen Buddhism (though he was raised in the Assemblies of God). He turned to the wisdom of Tex Winter, an advocate of a strategy known as the triangle offence. The system involved swarming the opponent’s circle with players in a triangle formation, all of them in constant motion to give the player with the ball multiple options when passing the ball. In other words, it required every member of the team doing his job for the team to be successful.
Not just one.
Michael didn’t like it. He didn’t like Phil Jackson much at first. But he respected him. So he was prepared to try it out.
It took the team a year to learn the system and master it.
In 1991, the Bulls finally overcame their arch-rivals, the Detroit Pistons, and reached the NBA Finals. Their opponents in the final were the L.A. Lakers, led by their star player, Magic Johnson. Game five was an extremely tight game. It came down to the wire. Normally, Michael Jordan would take control, drive to the basket and somehow manage to score.
But not this time. This time, he drove to the key and popped it out to John Paxson, who was open. He scored a 3. He did it again, drove the lane, then popped it out. Pax scored again. And so the Bulls won the first of their six championships.
Michael Jordan had learnt the meaning of true leadership: develop and use the gifts of your teammates. Reflecting on that first season, he says, ‘my job was to get the most out of Scottie (Pippen).’
Here’s the thing. If Michael Jordan hadn’t learned this lesson, we probably wouldn’t know much about him. He wouldn’t have won a ring. He would have been the star on the losing team, who never quite made it to the top. Instead, he won six rings and is considered by some to be the greatest of them all. Why?
Because he learnt the meaning of true leadership.
Develop your team. Unlock the gifts of every team member and then release them to play their part.
Do you aspire to be a great leader or are you just doing the job that was handed to you?
If you want to be a great leader – and I hope you do – then you will have to learn the art of equipping and releasing. That’s your job. Not preaching, not counselling, not leading meetings, not making decisions. Your job as the leader is to equip and release the gifts of your whole team.
Next time, some Scripture to cement the argument.
*Rings are awarded to the team which wins the NBA championship each year. They are highly prized.
This week, we're releasing the second of Roy Bishop's articles on Adultery. Click here.