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Emotional Mastery Takes One Leader to the Top of His Profession – What Can It Do For You?

Since you know I’m always looking for the best real life examples of how top leaders apply my strategies for success and while also dropping in analogies from the sports world, I found this article that does both. Eric Douglas of Leading Resources, Inc. who sent this article in his ezine earlier this week and I am republishing with his permission.


In his book Sacred Hoops, Phil Jackson, the former coach of NBA’s Chicago Bulls and now of the L.A. Lakers, recounts how he learned how to deal with winning and losing under the eyes of millions of fans. He says he was prepared to deal with the constant media pressure because he’d learned “to take his ego out.”

Jackson describes the long road he took to get to that point. After eight years as a player, he went to work in Canada, coaching semi-pro basketball teams. After a
string of defeats, he took time off to reconsider what he wanted to do with his life. He visited an Indian village near his home in South Dakota. He took up meditation. He learned Zen Buddhism. He cites his studies of Buddhism as the turning point.

After this personal journey, Jackson got back to basketball. On a fluke, he wound up as an assistant coach in Chicago. When the head coach was fired, Jackson was suddenly thrust into the top coaching job.

In that environment, he discovered that his “ego-less” approach was highly successful. His calm, cool leadership paid off in big games, when his players incurred far fewer technical fouls than his opponents. It also helped him manage the super-sized egos of professional basketball players. His record of playoff victories and championship rings, unmatched by any other coach in professional basketball, is proof of the importance of staying cool under fire.

As Jackson’s story illustrates, it is vital that in a time of crisis you maintain your cool. Charles Rice, the CEO of Barnett Bank, puts it this way: “Leadership is often about shaping a new way of life. To do that, you must advance change, take risks and accept responsibility for making change happen.”

Leaders on the battlefield are trained to be cool under fire. An adviser to special operations teams working in the Middle East says: “Our people are trained to commit troops to their deaths. They can’t waffle. They can’t ask for more data. They are trained to make each decision and move on.”

Most leaders don’t face life-or-death decisions. But metaphorically they do every day. How should I respond to this hostile e-mail? Should we close a plant? Should we terminate this manager? Should we cancel this program? Leaders experience these kinds of tough questions on a daily basis. They juggle one tough decision after another. How you respond to these kinds of tests – and whether you stay cool under fire – is a sign of whether you are genuinely capable of building a leadership culture.


Phil Jackson mastered the art of “emotional intelligence,” which is the foundation of successful leadership. Jackson’s story reinforces the power of leaders being able to master their emotions that is why I’ve made it the foundation of my Confident Leaders’ Training Camp. The CLTC launches this week but its not too late to jump on board.

To learn more visit www.ConfidentLeadersTrainingCamp.com


Eric Douglas is a principal consultant, president, and founder of Leading Resources Inc. He specializes in strategic planning, board governance and leadership development. His strength is designing planning processes that result in real, meaningful change and high performing organizations. Eric Douglas can be contacted at efdouglas@leadingresources.com.

There are 2 comments. Add yours.

  1. Atul

    Dear Skip,

    What you mentioned is a reality. But I have seen very few people at top position follow it. I believe it needs lot of determination and control on self to remain cool in unpleasant conditions. This in one of the most important leadership quality which will win hearts of people.

    • Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert

      Atul, You are so right. It is probably the #1 most important, yet most challenging skill for organizational leaders to acquire, never mind, master. Again, this is why I’ve made it the first lesson in the Confident Leaders Training Camp. Anyone interested can click this link to learn more

      I think the fact that one of the most successful coaches in the history of professional athletics might be motivation enough for business leaders at all levels to take notice and invest in themselves to become a master of their emotions. Phil Jackson proved IT WORKS!

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