…you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

This is a quote by a 13th century chap called Rumi, and is the foreword written in the book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success written by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty.

Jackson is considered one of the greatest head coaches in NBA (that’s basketball) history, winning 6 championship titles with the Chicago Bulls before winning 5 titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. He has the highest winning percentage in the history of the game, and won 2 championships as a player in the 1970s.

What’s this got to do with the price of fish you may ask, so I’ll cut the chase – it’s about Leadership and some of the principles I’ve used and seen used to make an effective leader.

The approach Phil Jackson took to leading his teams has always been seen as unconventional, with him earning the moniker “The Zen Master” by many observers. This book, and others he’s wrote, give insight into the spiritual philosophy he utilised in his leadership, often citing quotes from Buddhism, Sufism and other philosophies with his players to get the best out of them individually, but crucially as a team.

His approach reaped great rewards, with Jackson leading his teams to more championship titles than any other coach in history and often with players who were regarded as average.

One of the key principles Jackson talks about is how he was constantly aware of why he was taking the actions he did, and made sure each was in line with his core ethics and values. He also embraced the ethics and values of others as one way of getting the best out of them.

When leading teams, either as their line manager or heading up a project team, I take the same approach to leadership and make sure my actions stay true to my ethics and values, and this has brought great success in the results achieved.

I kick off working together with a brief insight into my ethics and values – either through the ‘why I do what I do’ part of my opening presentation, or on my turn at the round robin where everyone says a bit about themselves.

It doesn’t take long, 30 seconds at most, and gives people a brief insight into what I am all about.

What’s important though is that all actions, decisions and guidance given from then on stay true to those ethics and values.

This builds trust with colleagues because they feel the support, input or direction they’re receiving is being true to what I believe.

They also get confidence from knowing I have considered the situation in line with my ethics and values and I haven’t compromised myself against them in what I am saying.

The personal benefit comes from being comforted by the fact I’m staying true to my conscience, not working against it. This certainly helps me sleep better at night.

Ethics and values differ in everyone though, and another key I’ve found to being an effective leader is to embrace the ethics and values in the people you are leading.

If they feel conflicted by what you’re asking, then that conflict will remain until it is resolved in themselves and they too won’t sleep soundly. In fact, they may start disengaging with you as a leader.

Therefore seeking to understand the ethics and values of the people you lead, and empowering them to incorporate those into the way they work will positively impact their relationships with colleagues, clients and you as they too will be sleeping better at night.

Of course ethics and values can differ so much that the two parties involved eventually go their separate ways, and that’s fine as it can be counterproductive for all for the conflict to continue.

However, if as a leader you are not aware of your ethics and values and how they evolve over time, and not open and comfortable with allowing the ethics and values of others into the way they work, that working relationship will always struggle to get to the positive place it could be.

So, when I do things from my soul, I feel a river moving in me, a joy, which has helped me and others get great results as leaders, and as a leader I’d encourage you to identify with that soul in yourself and others as one way of getting the best out of everyone.

Graham

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