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Book Review: Wooden on Leadership

John Wooden is perhaps the greatest coach in all of sports history.  Sure many can argue for a coach here or a coach there, but for every debate, John Wooden will be among the final choices for the greatest of all time.  Wooden is perhaps best known for his span of ten national championships over a twelve year span at UCLA, and his 88 consecutive win strek.  However, Wooden transcended college basketball and can be known for his impact in the lives of his former players, his family and friends, and for a vast number of people who have read his leadership and management techniques.  Wooden was not one to keep things to himself and strived to enrich the lives of anyone who was willing to listen and learn.  “Wooden on Leadership” is just such a book that documents his philosophy.

The Pyramid of Success

Wooden is known for his “Pyramid of Success”, which documents fifteen building blocks for success.  They include the following:

  1. Industriousness
  2. Enthusiasm
  3. Friendship
  4. Loyalty
  5. Cooperation
  6. Self-Control
  7. Alertness
  8. Initiative
  9. Intentness
  10. Condition
  11. Skill
  12. Team Spirit
  13. Poise
  14. Confidence
  15. Patience and Faith

Wooden would often document exactly what his players needed to do to succeed.  This could include practice habits and daily behavior.  For an organization, perhaps one source of frustration is when an employee does not know what is expected, nor has a definitive plan on how they can succeed within the organization.  Quite often when I am giving evaluations or having talks with employees whom I supervise, I often get questions of “what do you want me to do to help out the department?”, to which I often provide new and different things that may help them gain exposure to IT technology and higher level department functions that they have not been part of.  From personal experience, this may not be something employees come to me on a regular basis, but usually open up after being asked or when in a place where they feel someone is listening to them.  If you are working in a supervisory role, I have found it is often best to tailor a guide to success for each individual.  Once they know what is expected and how they can achieve greatness at an organization, they will most likely proceed to do so.

Valuable Values

Wooden goes on to argue that in order to attract people with good values, you must have good values.  People of character normally will seek out people with character.  Nothing can be more frustrating than following proper ethical behavior when fellow co-workers or upper management may not be.  Usually two things will occur.  Either these individuals will lapse into similar behavior, or they may get frustrated and leave the organization.  Wooden was a firm believer in actions define character.  I have seen so many times in my own experience where someone is saying that everyone must sacrifice to get the job done, or that individuals need to portray proper leadership traits, only to see those very same people not follow their own mandate.  Knee-jerk reactions usually will cause people to rebel or to lose respect for organizational leadership, resulting in a crack in the foundation of any organization or department.  A great example on the news is the Penn State University football program.  One of the most respected programs over the last half-century is now riddled in turmoil and has lost reputation, maybe permanently.  Sometimes doing the right thing may be difficult, but doing the right thing should never have to be debated.  It should be an automatic choice, one of which will be the right one every time.

Lessons to Lead By

Some of Wooden’s lessons to lead by include:

  1. Keep asking questions
  2. Show what you mean
  3. Control emotion or it will control you
  4. Select people wisely
  5. Every minute counts
  6. Set the proper tone with meticulous time management
  7. Pride is easier to instill with the carrot
  8. Make sure all praise is genuine and appropriate
  9. Don’t lock yourself into rigid penalties
  10. Success breeds satisfaction; satisfaction breeds failure (no complacency)
  11. Identify and remove excuses for not getting to the next level
  12. Reward the qualities that count
  13. Before you can lead others, you must be able to lead yourself
  14. Don’t confuse change for the sake of change with progress

Seven Point Creed

Wooden argued that an individual’s ability to maximize the talent will distinguish them as a superior leader.  Wooden learned his seven point creed from lessons by his father.

  1. Be true to yourself
  2. Make each day your masterpiece
  3. Help others
  4. Drink deeply from good books, including the Good Book
  5. Make friendship a fine art
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks every day

Wooden died in 2010, but his life and lessons has touched many others.  Simply as a coach, he is generally considered one of the greatest of all time.  As a human, is widely respected and admired, and for good reason.  This book is a great read and should anyone who wishes to enrich their lives can find valuable information to assist them in their journey towards individual success.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Wooden on Leadership

  1. Thank you for sharing information about this book. I will probably buy it, because I want to know much more about this subject… I was recently named as a leader in my company, so I think it’s very important. I’ve also followed a Leadership training Toronto course in order to find out what I must do for a great working environment and how to lead a team correctly… it was really useful.

    1. Thanks for the comment Diana. I will have to check out the link you provided. There are multiple books by and about John Wooden, so if this particular one leaves you wanting more, there is plenty of other sources for information out there.

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