G.O.A.T: A Comparison between LeBron James and Servant Leadership

The Best. It’s a subjective term unless there is a definitive standard that is universally agreed upon. But some times, it’s fun to discuss what we believe to be the best. Some believe that LeBron James is the best basketball player of all time, others believe that Michael Jordan still holds that crown. Greatest of All Time…the G.O.A.T. But the belief is laced in a degree of varying factors. So it is with leadership. There are varying degrees of factors that would qualify which style of leadership is the best. Direct, persuasive, autocratic, situational…all viable all having their place of greatness, but many differ on which is the best.

Leadership needs to look a certain way, doesn’t it? In order for it to be the best leadership, it must dominate, but on top, take charge at all times and it’s power must be absolute. It seems as though many of the most successful, sought after and polarizing leaders of our time have those same kinds of traits. Even in sports, one of the reasons why Micheal Jordan is considered to be the G.O.A.T is his “killer instinct.” Jordan’s ability to go on the court and ensure that his opponent could not survive his onslaught and barrage of shots from every imaginable angle struck fear in the heart of every NBA defender. This mentality and characteristic allowed Jordan to win 6 NBA Championships, never being defeated in the NBA Finals.

The exact opposite is said to be true about LeBron. James has never been said to have a “killer instinct”. James doesn’t exactly dominate, take charge at all times and assert his absolute power. So calling LeBron James the “best” in the history of basketball would be just as much of an oxymoron as…well…Servant Leadership. Saying that LeBron is the G.O.A.T would be just as blasphemous as saying that Servant Leadership is the “best” leadership style. After all, servant and leader just does not go together, like oil and water, it doesn’t mix. In Robert Greenleaf’s essay “The Servant as Leader”, he makes some compelling claims that the two are not mutually exclusive. I’d like to make any additional claim…Servant Leadership should be considered the G.O.A.T of leadership styles, just as LeBron James should be considered the G.O.A.T of basketball.

Leadership should shine through when it matters the most. Is the best leadership shown when a leader wins all the time? Always winning doesn’t make you the best leader. Always learning does. Servant Leaders are constantly learning, constantly growing, overcoming mistakes and never allowing failure to define them or those around them. The greatest mark of a leader isn’t their own accolades, it’s the combined improvement of the team. Servant Leaders strive to ensure the team is best. LeBron James’ career has never been about doing things the way everyone else has. See NBA Free Agency. LeBron, in his 16th year, is still learning and growing and never allowing failure to define him. LeBron’s accolades, while vast, is more about his team than about him. Dominating leadership has it’s places, but dominating leaders only do one thing…dominate. Is there ever a time when a leader doesn’t need to dominate? Of course there is. Jordan is great, no doubt, but before LeBron retires, he will surpass Mike in the one thing Mike has done better than anyone. And that isn’t even the best thing LeBron does. James is the all time playoff leader in nearly every major statistical category. He will be top 5 all time in scoring and field goals made, top 10 all time in steals, minutes played and three point field goals made by the end of his career. And none of those things are the best thing. In fact, LeBron James will likely finish his career top 5 in assisting the basketball, the “best” in making his teammates better. Sounds just like a servant leader to me.