Wake Up! It’s Book Review Monday – Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself.  In light of this, on Monday’s I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty. If you are a 90’s bulls fan. READ THIS BOOK. 

Brief Summary:

This book is a memoir of Phil Jackson’s time playing and coaching in the NBA. He shares his stories of playing with the Knicks, leading the 90’s Bulls to 6 rings and reviving his coaching career with the 2000’s Lakers to win 5 rings. Throughout the book, he ties into each story his 11 principles of leadership that he believes guided him to coaching his teams to 11 championships.

Things I learned from this book:

Lead from the inside out:

This is Phil’s first leadership principle. He believes that most leaders try to do whatever everyone else is doing, or the latest management technique. Instead, he says just lead from the heart and be authentic.

I found this as the single most important and most natural principle to master to become a great leader. Though I like to read and learn about leadership, nothing will stop me from just being me and leading with my heart. One of the things I have learned over time is that trust is an essential factor in leadership. Nobody wants to work for someone who is fake or acting like they are someone that they are not. When you lead from the heart people will trust you. It’s that simple. 

When I think about the people I lead at work, I don’t view them as employees or co-workers; I see them as humans that have given me the opportunity to help them reach their potential not only in work but in life. I care about their success and work as hard as I can to make them feel that we are in this together.  I hope that every rep I lead feels that we shared unique experiences and moments that will create a life-long bond. 

The road to freedom is a beautiful system:

As we all know, Phil Jackson was a big believer in the triangle offense. What he loved most about it was that it gave players a system in which to operate, but also let them use their own instincts and knowledge to decide what pass or shot to take in the heat of the moment.

What I took away from Phil was that you must train the entire team to use one effective framework/system that can help them do their job in the way you believe is best. How they operate within the framework or system is up to them. As a leader, I can quickly identify each rep’s strengths and weaknesses within the system to help them be better.  For example, I have a framework on how to run an effective demo. It is not a script or a word for word guide. It is a simple framework that helps guide the rep from beginning to end of a call. The rep has their own talk track that they can insert into the framework, and I believe that if they follow the process, they will be successful in the role. 

Focus on the spirit, not the scoreboard:

Teams are at their strongest when they give up self-interest for the greater good of the team. Here is a story Phil shares in the book about the importance of working as a team:

“The Samurai wanted to teach his sons the power of teamwork. So he gave each of them an arrow and asked them to break it. No problem. Each son did it easily. Then the samurai gave them a bundle of three arrows bound together and asked them to repeat the process. But none of them could. “That’s your lesson,” the samurai said. If you three stick together you will never be defeated.”

This taught me that if the team wins or lose, we win or lose together. From the first day I led a group of people, I made it clear that there was no individual person (including me as the leader) who was greater than the team. It seems like a simple concept to some, but Phil made me realize that it was one of the important things I had to make clear to my team as the leader.

I also learned the best way to hold an employee accountable is to have their teammates hold them accountable. Although I am technically the leader, my title has no meaning. In my mind, we are all teammates, and I am not the only one responsible for holding each employee accountable. The entire team is.

Tribal Leadership and becoming a stage 5 team:

In the book, Phil discusses the concept of “tribal leadership” and the 5 stages that every team must achieve to eventually reach their potential.  After reading it, I made stage 5 as my team’s vision statement (our end result). Below is my team’s vision statement:

We are dedicated to team pride and the overriding conviction that “we are great, not they are great, or I am great.” This team requires common beliefs and shared visions, and the bigger the challenge, the more powerful the team. Our long-term vision is to achieve a rare stage characterized in teams with a sense of innocent wonder and the strong belief that “we no longer are just great, BUT life is great.”

How has this book impacted me?

Phil made me realize that individuals can have all the talent in the world, but they will never achieve the level of success a fully cohesive team can accomplish. As a leader, your responsibility is to get a group of individuals to act as a team and believe in one common goal. If you can do that, your team will achieve success.

This was one of the first books I read when I became a sales leader, and to this day I incorporate the principles mentioned above into my day to day leadership (I only discussed 3 out of the 11 principles because they resonated with me most).  I still have a lot to learn, but thanks to Phil I have the foundation of my leadership philosophy. 

Now Wake up! It’s Day One. Buy Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success here

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