Remembering Coach Wooden

I was introduced to Coach Wooden by my father. I was getting ready to work with the faculty at The Industrial College of The Armed Forces in Washington DC after September 11, 2001. I was invited to come to Washington DC to talk about how leadership and the world changed after 9/11. I had interviewed many of the great thinkers on leadership from around the world, but the more I spoke to these people, the more overwhelmed I became. For the first time, I was struggling to come up with a curriculum that would simplify my thinking into a process that I could share.

I called my father out of desperation to see if he could help me brainstorm a solution for the faculty.  My father said he would like to help me but really didn’t know where I might start. He kidded me about the fact that I was invited and I should go as I am. Not as a military officer or representing the executive branch, but as a person who knew about organizational psychology and a student of leadership and history.  He then told me about John Wooden.  He had seen an article about Wooden’s leadership framework that might provide me with ideas that I could use to shape my discussions.

I went out and researched Coach Wooden and his famous Pyramid of Success. I tried to get on Coach Wooden’s schedule.  Unfortunately, we just couldn’t coordinate our schedules to talk, but I received several articles and presentations that helped me understand his value-based leadership model.

The more I read, the more clear I became.  His values mapped well to the values the military trains into our military and officers. Knowing the foundation, I could build an advanced framework on what leadership should look like moving forward. Coach Wooden had provided a great way of organizing my thinking.

This weekend, we lost Coach Wooden. He was inspiration to me, as well as many other more well-known athletes and professors. The more you know about John Wooden, the more you realize the gift he was to students, teachers, and fellow coaches.

I decided to share some of his thinking, because it is very relevant to people who lead organizations.  I find his thinking applies to leading technology companies even more.

I thought I’d share some of his thinking on leading teams and then follow up with a short comment. Enjoy and apply it to your own growing technology business.

Here are several rules for team leaders by John Wooden for software and technology leaders. 

Rules to Lead by:

1. Condition your team to love the struggle. In changing times, technology leaders must remember there will be struggles before success. Allow your team the opportunity to enjoy the challenge and growth that comes from struggling to acheive.

2. Remember that success can takes months or years to achieve but can be undone in minutes. Think before you speak, and understand that in a connected world, your thoughts may be around for many years to haunt you. Engage your heart before your mouth when dealing with challenging situations.

3. Never allow anyone else to define your success. If you allow others to define you, you may never succeed. Let your teams know your definition of success and work with them to make it happen. Become good at coaching your team.

4. Organizations succeed when they become more than the sum of their players. Share with others how much of a difference they make in a team’s performance. Find a way of supporting all team members. Look for chances to catch people doing things right and when they exceed expectations. Learn to help the team work well together.

If you have questions or comments about John Wooden, please add them here so we can all remember the man and how he changed our lives. If you found this blog helpful please let us know. We’d love to hear your stories and about how your teams have become successful. If you like this blog and would like more like it let us know. We can share other material to help you lead better.

Tripp Braden is an IT marketing and sales consultant who specializes in developing seven figure partnerships and businesses.  He is also the editor of Market Leadership Journal.  Discover how to grow your company through extraordinary partnerships by visiting where you can find resources and products to increase your success.

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