If Michael Jordan worked in Recruitment - A Top Performer or a Bully?
If Michael Jordan worked in Recruitment - A Top Performer or a Bully?
26th May 2020Written by: Iain Blair
You don’t have to be a Michael Jordan fan or a basketball nut to be in awe of “The Last Dance” currently trending on Netflix. If you’ve not watched it then I urge you to do so. 

For those that haven’t, it’s a 10-part docuseries following the Chicago Bulls' 1997-98 season from start to finish, whilst also covering the rest of the chapters in Jordan's incredible career. The Last Dance follows the Jordan timeline from when he was an emerging star on his high school team to becoming a worldwide marketing force and cultural figure. But it’s not without some controversy and debate about MJ’s leadership style and his “win at any cost” attitude. 
So, it got me thinking about how he would have been in the corporate world…or even more specifically, in the world of recruitment. 

He was the ultimate competitor! The bigger the challenge in front of him the greater he was. He never failed to deliver what was needed at the time it was needed the most. What I really loved as well though was how he followed instructions from the coach and could never have been accused of being “too big” for the team when it counted the most. You couldn’t say the same for all team members, with Scottie Pippen in particular, making a fool of himself when he refused to follow instructions and rather sat out the play altogether at a crucial moment. Very poor form! 
So, would MJ be any good at recruitment? 
Well he would have that ultra-competitive streak in wanting to beat his competition to the best talent first. He wouldn’t give in when he couldn’t find the candidate after days of “eye bleeding” searching. He’d be pretty handy in the offsite team building sports get togethers too. 
But was he, and could he be, a good leader? 
Essentially, whilst he’d be undeniably great at whatever he wanted to do, including recruitment, his style just wouldn’t fit in 2020. Jordan always expected greatness from himself, and constantly looked for an edge when going into a game, but also into practice. Unfortunately, that edge in practice would often directly impact the wellbeing and performance of his teammates and not always in a positive way. 
IMHO his management and leadership style is probably more reminiscent of the old-school leadership style you hear of today - he was a bully, a micro-manager and, quite frankly, unrealistic in his expectations. Not everyone is born with the natural gifts of a Michael Jordan. You do wonder how many of the other players on the Bulls team, and specifically Scott Burrell, could have thrived in environments where their talent was appreciated and allowed to grow. 

It’s no great surprise therefore, that after his playing career ended there has never been any talk of him moving into a coaching role or leadership position. Unlike the two other greatest players of that era, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, who both have been coaches and executives respectively. 
On a separate side note, isn’t it also interesting that the relatively unheralded Steve Kerr, who was a “role specific” player and had to fight and claw his way into the NBA is now the coach of the most successful team of the current era, the Golden State Warriors.  
But back to the rather odd question of “would MJ be any good at Recruitment?”
I think he would be great, but he would have to be great in his own domain. So often in my career I’ve seen great recruiters get put into leadership roles with the expectations that they will also make others great… and then they crash and burn. So just give him a desk and a market and tell him who his competition is and that they’re better than him!  It wouldn’t be long before he would be outperforming them each month, quarter and year. He’d just find a way to win. 
So, would I hire him? 

You bet I would!  I think he could inspire others with his unrelentless competitive spirit and desire for success. I’ve always been about recognising that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to recruitment and that you can do well in all manner of ways. The key is being agile enough to create an environment that nurtures people in however they approach it and I think essentially that is what made the Bulls truly great!

I was in awe of MJ in The Last Dance – yes, I know his company produced it so we didn’t see a truly balanced documentary, but wow was he impressive! However, the guy I personally had the most respect for in this show was the coach, Phil Jackson. When you think that he managed the worlds most famous athlete (Michael Jordan), the worlds most famous crazy athlete (Dennis Rodman), the ultimate wingman who could have been a number 1 anywhere else (Scottie Pippen) and then the rest of the team, giving them all space to be themselves but to keep them as a team when it counted. And let’s not forget all the company politics flying around constantly. Hats off to the man! That’s modern-day leadership right there!  
Have you watched The Last Dance? What were your thoughts, would you want MJ on your team? We'd love to hear from you, leave us a comment below.


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