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Coach John Wooden on Leadership

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John Wooden’s goal in 41 years of coaching never changed; namely, to get maximum effort and peak performance from each of his players in the manner that best served the team. Wooden on Leadership explains step-by-step how he pursued and accomplished this goal. Focusing on Wooden’s 12 Lessons in Leadership and his acclaimed Pyramid of Success, it outlines the mental, emotional, and physical qualities essential to building a winning organization, and shows you how to develop the skill, confidence, and competitive fire to “be at your best when your best is needed”--and teach your organization to do the same.
  • SUCCESS Competitive Greatness Be at your best when Patie your best is Faith needed. n Love the ce hard battle. Poise Confidence Stay calm Proper under fire. preparation Avoid creates pretense or the right posturing. kind of Just be confidence. yourself. Condition Skill Team Spirit Mental Be able to An Moral execute all eagerness to Physical. aspects of sacrifice Moderation your job. personal must be Keep interest for the welfare practiced. learning. of all. Self-Control Alertness Initiative Intentness Practice Be Summon Stay the self- observant the courage course. discipline and eager to make a Concentrate and keep to learn and decision on your emotions objective improve. and take under with steely control. action. resolve. Industriousness Friendship Loyalty Cooperation Enthusiasm Work hard. Mutual To yourself Be interested You must Worthwhile esteem, and to all in finding truly enjoy things camaraderie, those the best what you come only and respect depending way, not in are doing. create great through bonds of upon you. having your hard work. strength. own way.
  • I N T RO D U C T I O N Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable. I officially became Coach Wooden on Monday afternoon, September 5, 1932the first day of football practice at Day- ton High School in Kentucky. I was 21, married a month, and re- cently graduated from Purdue University with a major in English and a minor in poetry. The Dayton school board was paying me $1,500 annually and divided it up like this: $1,200 for teaching English classes; $300 for coaching football, basketball, and baseball. Despite the dispar- ity in pay, everyone understood that I was hired primarily as a coach, not as an English teacher. Thats how it was done in those days. If pressed, school officials would have told you that Johnny Wooden, a three-time All-American and Big 10 scoring leader while a member of the national champion Purdue Boilermakers basketball team, was on the Dayton faculty not to teach English but because he knew all about coaching and leadership. They were wrong. What I knew how to do was teach English, including Shake- speare and spelling, poetry and punctuation. As a matter of fact, 3
  • 4 Wooden on Leadership just before graduation from Purdue, I was offered a fellowship with an eye toward my becoming an English professor and joining its faculty in West Lafayette, Indiana. I would have accepted the offer except for one thing: Nellie and I were eager to get married and start a family, and the Purdue fel- lowship wouldnt pay enough for us to live on. Had I intended to stay single, however, I might have taken the offer, become a pro- fessor of English, and perhaps never become a full-time coach. So when Dayton High School came calling with a pretty good sum of money for those days$1,500 annuallywe saw the preacher and headed off to my new job. What Dayton got for its money was a pretty fair English teacher and a pretty bad coach. However, on that first Monday afternoon in September, when I confidently blew my whistle to signal the start of practice, I thought I knew what I was doing. Two weeks later, I quit coaching football. REMEMBER YOUR ROOTS I am a competitive man. As far back as I remember theres been a fierce determination in me to winwhether as a young basketball player in Indiana or later as a coach leading teams into competi- tion for national championships. While I was blessed at birth with some athletic ability, my coach- ing skills were acquired later. In fact, I was so bashful as a young man that you would never have picked me as a future coach, a leader, who could stand in front of strong-willed, independent- minded individuals and tell them what to doand how to do it. Overcoming shyness was something I had to learn. I believe leadership itself is largely learned. Certainly not every- one can lead nor is every leader destined for glory, but most of us have a potential far beyond what we think possible.
  • Introduction 5 Those who aspire to be leaders can do it; those who wish to be- come much better leaders can also do it. I know, because this has been true in my own life. Whatever coaching and leadership skills I possess were learned through listening, observation, study, and then trial and error along the way. In my opinion, this is how most leaders improve and progress. For me, the process of learning leadership continued for 40 years until the day I walked off the court for the last time as head coachMarch 31, 1975following UCLAs tenth national cham- pionship. In truth, my learning continued even after that. Nevertheless, coaching was not something I set out to do grow- ing up. Its fair to say that my primary objective back on our fam- ily farm was to beat my older brother Maurice (Cat) in a race around the barn or any other competition we thought up. Most of the time I lost, because my brothers nickname was accurate: Mau- rice was quick as a cat. Nevertheless, the two of us loved to com- pete, which meant we were no different from you and just about everybody else, then and now. Americans, perhaps by nature, are most competitive. In sports, business, and almost all areas of life they not only ask Whos number one?, they want to be number one and constantly compare them- selves against that standard: Am I the biggest? The best? The fastest? However, for most of my life I have believed these are the wrong questions to ask oneself. This comes mostly from what I was taught by my dad back on the farm in Centerton, Indiana, population 49. The principles and values I learned back there stuck with me and became the compass that Ive followedor tried to followfor more than 90 years. My devotion to what he taught as well as my belief in its importance and practicality remains as strong today as ever. Stronger, in fact. Whatever I accomplished as a leader came mainly from what he accomplished as a father and teacher.
  • 6 Wooden on Leadership THE SECRET OF SUCCESS My dad, Joshua Hugh Wooden, was a good man with strong con- victions and gentle ways. Self-educated through reading, he passed his love of learning along to his four boys. He was very proud that all of us graduated from high school, even prouder when we re- ceived college degrees and became teacherseach one of us. Although Dad suffered terrible setbacks and sorrowsdeaths of two daughters, loss of his beloved farm, financial hardships during the Great Depressionhe never complained, criticized, or com- pared himself to others who were better off. Through it all he made the best of what he had and was thankful for it. That is one of my strongest memories of him and something I tried so hard to copy as the years went by, both in my private life and as a teacher, coach, and leader. Dad wasnt much for small talk or gossip and could play through a whole game of checkers or chess without saying a word. How- ever, when he did say something it was always worth hearing. He possessed a simple wisdom, profound but extremely practical. What he said about successwinning the racewas un- common for his time and even more uncommon today. His words are at the core of my philosophy of leadership, perhaps the single most important concept Ive learned and taught over the years. Sons, he would tell my three brothers and me, dont worry about whether youre better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become. You have control over that; the other you dont. Time spent comparing myself to others, he cautioned, was time wasted. This is a tough lesson to learn when youre young, even tougher when you grow up. Johnny, work hard to get as good as you can get, hed
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