Basketball, Leadership and Israel Advocacy


With the NBA All Star weekend nearly upon us, I recently read the book “Eleven Rings” by Phil Jackson, in which the former Bulls and Lakers coach discussed how he built championship teams using various leadership methods. In the book, Jackson emphasized that a team is - more than just a group of people wearing the same jersey. A team is about working together, knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and capitalizing on them. You may say to yourself, "well that is great, but what does it have to do with Israel advocacy?"Actually, everything. As a president or leader of an Israel group, your primary goal is to build a good team. Jackson said, “Basketball is a mystery. You can do everything right… But if the players don’t have a sense of oneness as a group, your efforts won’t pay off." (pg 84) In other words, in order to reach your potential as a group, you need to work together, and the best way to do that is by recognizing and playing off of everyone's strengths.

I often see presidents of student groups feeling as though they need to do everything, however, if you want to accomplish all of your goals, one person simply can’t do it all. When Jackson coached the Bulls, he said Michael Jordan, the leader of the team, "would understand that each player was different and had something important to offer the team. It was his job, as leader, to figure out how to get the best out of each one of them.” (pg 156) The same notion applies to a successful board. You need to delegate tasks according to people’s strengths. Once you do that, you will feel more comfortable relinquishing power.

By delegating to your board, you not only can accomplish more, but you are training the next generation of leaders. Jackson said, “What I’ve learned over the years is that the most effective approach is to delegate authority as much as possible and to nurture everyone else’s leadership skills as well. When I’m able to do that, it not only builds team unity and allows others to grow but also- paradoxically- strengthens my role as a leader.” (pg 86) Members can gain experience by putting their skills into practice, especially when they are guided by knowledgeable leaders.

Your Israel group is a team working together to accomplish specific goals. In order to reach these goals, you need to utilize everyone’s strengths and make everyone feel a part of the process. Jackson wrote that, “Leadership is not about forcing your will on others. It’s about mastering the art of letting go.” (pg 309) Things may not be done the exact way you want them to be, but if you give up some control, you can accomplish so much more and ensure the next great group of leaders will be ready to continue your legacy after you graduate.