“Coming up next … O Captain, My Captain,” October 26, 2009

Afer Further Review … Walt Whitman wrote “O Captain, My Captain” about President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 emphasizing the importance of Lincoln’s leadership in troubled times.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Jackson evidently didn’t read much of Whitman’s writings, or if he did, decided to ignore the challenge of leadership. Jackson, who was named the Warriors captain for the 2009-2010 season, recently renounced that title.

“Being captain was over-rated to me, anyway. You don’t do anything but go out before the game and talk to the refs. I don’t want to do that, anyway.” Jackson was quoted by AP writer Janie McCauley. There’s somewhat of a disconnect here. In the world of sports, being named captain is: 1) an honor, 2) a privilege, and 3) above all, a responsibility.

Jackson was named captain by Warriors Head Coach Don Nelson, even though Jackson and Nelson have had their ‘run-ins.” Jackson claimed that Nelson failed to support him in a confrontation Jackson had in a game last season. Perhaps Nelson’s idea to name Jackson as captain was to “jack-up” (little play on words) his confidence, as well as help to bring the Warriors together as a T.E.A.M. – a move that obviously didn’t work.

Denying his team’s captain role is certainly Jackson’s right. However, his disgruntled response smacks as narcissistic. Being a captain, Mr. Jackson, is not about you, but about your role as a leader of your T.E.A.M. (Together Everyone Accomplishes More). Jackson’s athletic history certainly highlights his physical skills and prowess, but at the same time, raises questions about his background as a leader and team player.

In a recent speaking engagement to a corporate audience, whose conference theme was “Leaders of the Pack,” I related a subject matter I often use: “Leadership is not so much about ability, as it is responsibility.” A leader “steps up” to help others. Michael Jordan comes to mind. It has been said about former NBA star and Hall of Famer, Jordan, that his leadership and abilities made others (his teammates) around him better.

Leadership in today’s climate is challenging. Coach Nelson was undoubtedly trying to express confidence in Jackson’s abilities, as well as pull the Warriors together as a team as they begin the season. If the Warriors lack a player who can do that, the season may be already lost.

Will you step-up to accept responsibility when it comes your way?

Jim


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