Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wooden Way

When it comes to the topic of leadership, I often look to successful sports coaches for insights into how best to manage talented people. In fact, Vince Lombardi is one of my all-time favorites.

As he once put it: “Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.”

There are few coaches with a track record as illustrious as former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He’s a long-time hero of my friend Bob Seelert’s, and since Wooden’s death earlier this summer, I’ve been reading up on this inspirational leader. Wooden was the first person to ever be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. But, believe it or not, that was hardly his most impressive accomplishment.

In the last 12 years of Wooden’s tenure as head coach at UCLA, the team took home 10 championship titles. Seven of those championships were won back-to-back!

For his momentous accomplishments, Wooden was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian honor – in 2003, and was also the recipient of California State University’s John Wooden Ethics in Leadership Award (which was, obviously, named after Mr. Wooden himself).

Wooden was famous for his “Pyramid of Success,” as well as his 12 lessons of leadership. Here are the 12 lessons, all of which (with the possible exception of #4) I’m in full agreement with:
  1. Good values attract good people
  2. Love is the most powerful four-letter word
  3. Call yourself a teacher
  4. Emotion is your enemy
  5. It takes 10 hands to make a basket
  6. Little things make big things happen
  7. Make each day your masterpiece
  8. The character is mightier than a stick
  9. Make greatness attainable by all
  10. Seek significant change
  11. Don’t look at the scoreboard
  12. Adversity is your asset
Given his hard-nosed determination, his ability to remain cool under pressure and the tremendous emphasis he placed on teamwork, Wooden was the consummate leader, and we’d all be wise to take his lessons to heart. None of them are easy to follow, but they are words to live by nonetheless.