In December 1997, Los Angeles Lakers played the Bulls in Chicago. Many consider that the first real face-off between Kobe Bryant (who had been drafted the year before) and Michael Jordan (who had already won five championships).
During a break in the game, Bryant is close to Jordan. Bryant grew up watching Jordan play, he’s his idol. Bryant is bold enough to ask Jordan a question about his game: “how do you feel the defense when you turn around on your jump shot?”.
Now, Jordan could have done many different things here. He was the undisputed star of the NBA, he was going to win another championship that year. Yet, he knew that could not last forever, and many thought Bryant was his successor, the new rising star destined to take his place in the hearts of millions of fan.
Jordan could have done many different things. He could have walked away, he could have laughed it off, he could have hidden his secret, he could have shared the wrong information, he could have told the newbie to come back after winning five rings.
And he decided to share his expertise. “You feel them with your legs.”
Knowledge is no longer a limited resources (provided it ever was). Knowledge is incremental, and every time you share your knowledge, you add another person’s perspective, experience, take to it. Knowledge grows, and eventually it makes a community (whether it is the National Basketball Association, your team, your neighborhood or your family) better.
Mentoring is the very act of sharing knowledge. We can make of it a practice and be generous with what we know, be open to give it away, and perhaps see it returning in time with some new twists.
And if you are in the young Bryant’s shoes, be bold enough to ask.
This is the practice of leadership.