A Summary and Review of Wooden on Leadership by Coach John Wooden and Steve Jamison for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One
This summary and review of the book, Wooden on Leadership, was prepared by Isaac Rodriguez while a MBA student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.
In the following summary and review, many topics will be covered that may benefit any potential leader or manager. Coach John Wooden, most widely known for his tenure as UCLA’s head basketball coach, has reshaped what it takes to become a success; not only on the basketball court but in life itself.
After taking in the valuable information, the summary of the book takes place. The book was broken into three sections with many subsections in-between. During the first section, Coach Wooden covers his Pyramid of Success and how to obtain the qualities within it. The Pyramid has 15 blocks, all of which are vitally important to achieving success. The next section includes tips to lead a successful team and maintain the success. It involves sixteen chapters that are directed to people that have developed the 15 attributes of Wooden’s Pyramid. The final section of his book was a mix of personal basketball experiences, in-game strategies, and other helpful tips for managers to take with them along their journey of life. Some of the material was beneficial to only the basketball world, but other parts can be helpful to any work field.
During the first part of the review, ten suggestions are covered that may be beneficial to managers. It covers everything from what it takes to be a successful individual to what it takes to lead and maintain a successful team. These tips can prove to be very helpful for new or more established managers along with anyone in the leadership field.
The end of the review is personal insight of the book from the perspective of the writer. It involves four parts. The first part is the reviewer’s opinion of the author. The next part of this section is three suggestions that the reviewer would have done differently about the book. While the last two parts of the review section includes what the reviewer will take away from the book, how it has changed his life, and what he will apply to his career.
Overall, John Wooden’s book should be on the shelves of all leaders. It provides priceless information that will mold a leader into a success.
The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from Wooden On Leadership:
1. Success is not defined by wins and losses. In any life, especially in the business world, success is what everyone attempts to attain, but the majority simply define success as just wins and losses or high and low net income; that is incorrect. Success, in terms of Coach Wooden, is trying to be the best you can possibly be, maximizing your effort, and wins and losses is just a by-product of your performance. Only you can call yourself a success because only you know if your best was given so just compete against yourself and focus on effort (Wooden 3-13).
2. The Pyramid of Success and its tiers. The Pyramid of Success, developed by Coach Wooden, may be one of the greatest philosophies for not just businesses but for how individuals carry out their everyday lives. The pyramid includes fifteen blocks or traits (with a couple of others added) that are necessary to obtain the eventual goal of success. The bottom of the pyramid includes traits such as industriousness and enthusiasm (described as most important), friendship, loyalty, and cooperation. The second tier involves self-control, alertness, initiative, and intentness, while the heart of the pyramid includes conditioning, skill, team spirit, poise, confidence, and competitive greatness with faith and patience as side structures (Wooden 2). By attaining these traits, it is impossible to not be a success (Wooden 16-57).
3. Have good values. Being a person of good values and character is a person anyone would enjoy being around or working for. It attracts people with similar values and beliefs and creates a stronger relationship between the manager and employees resulting in greater performance. A manager must have good “character” and live by the values they have because according to Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do,” and everyone will pick up on how you are through your actions not your words (Wooden 61-76).
4. Love everyone the same. Within an organization, every employee needs to feel part of a family and feel the love from the management team that their particular job is important. It is impossible to like and treat everyone the same because everybody is different, but a manager needs to love and respect the team equally. By doing this, a close-knit family environment will be formed resulting in better performance from the employees. If better performance is obtained then desired outcomes for business production will be achieved (Wooden 80-90).
5. Be a teacher. A person in leadership has many roles and responsibilities throughout his or her organization, but one of the most important roles is to be a teacher for the employees. When role-playing as a teacher, patience and demonstrations (with repetition) must be present. Most people do not learn at the same rate, and giving demonstrations about how to complete the task will increase the learning process for employees (Wooden 92-103).
“No written word nor spoken plea,
6. Keep emotion out. Any successful manager has to have intensity in the work he or she does, but emotion must be absent. This concept should be spread throughout the organization. Being intense lets the employees know that their manager expects hard work in the most efficient way. If emotions are present, it allows for over-excitement, grudges, creating peaks and valleys. This causes a lack of stability within the company (Wooden 107-114)
7. Every job is important; Little things make big things happen. Generally, the top performer or manager is the one that gets all the praise and rewards from outside company doors, but a manager must stress from within that every job is equal in importance. Without the maximum performance of the “lower” jobs, the top performer is unable to maximize his or her efforts. For example, if a custodian forgets to do his job, then the rest of the organization is limited on what they can do because of an unclean workplace. So if the importance of each job is stressed to the worker performing it, there will be a realization that each worker significantly contributes to the success of the organization. Without executing the so-called “little” things, the “big” goals of the company are simply dreams (Wooden 117-147).
8. Time is essential. All managers need to understand that time can be the most productive or destructive asset a company has. Time, if managed effectively, can seem to be expanded with precise organizational skills. Utilizing time down to even the exact minute will set a great company apart from one that merely dreams about having more time. Everyone uses time, including competitors, but ones that are more efficient with time tend to have greater success (Wooden 161-163).
9. Carrot is mightier than the stick. Managers need to be better at motivating than punishing. Punishment can be effective for the team at times, but motivation to improve and fix problems can prove to be more beneficial to the organization as a whole. Motivation stops the fear instilled by punishment and creates a sense of pride within the employees’ work. As the old saying goes, “the carrot is mightier than the stick” (Wooden 165-176).
10. Use adversity to your advantage. Managers will be faced with adversity, but it is important that it is accepted and used as an advantage instead of just an obstacle. When faced with a troubling time, learn from it, improve or correct the problem, and make the best of the situation. Some things are out of your control, and managers must take those out-of-control scenarios and figure more productive ways to help the team (Wooden 219-229). “Things turn out best for those who make the best of how things turn out” (John Wooden Quotes).
Full Summary of Wooden On Leadership
The Foundation for My Leadership:
John Wooden was a man most known for his ten national championships in twelve years won as the head coach at UCLA, and he is still regarded as one of the best leaders of the century. Besides winning a then record of eighty-eight straight games and four perfect seasons, he developed a great knowledge of what it takes to be a successful leader and create a productive unit.
Coach Wooden’s definition of success differed from the majority of beliefs today. He did not believe success was defined by wins and losses but rather becoming the best of which you are capable of being. After graduating from college as a three time All-American in basketball at Purdue, Coach Wooden was hired at Dayton High School as an English teacher and coach for their three major sports: football, basketball, and baseball. Becoming a full-time English teacher was his dream and what he enjoyed to do most, and if not for wanting to quickly marry his significant other, he may have never became a college basketball coach.
Coach Wooden claims that most of his insights and beliefs he developed came from his father, including his definition of success. His father taught him that everyone controls their own success, and that success is determined by four main things: planning, preparation, practice, and performance (not wins/losses). He also helped the young Wooden create the powerful Pyramid of Success.
The Pyramid of Success
Coach Wooden learned early in his coaching career that everyone’s success is different. He said that success needed to be defined by self-satisfaction, not satisfaction of other people. Since he did not have an exact answer on how to achieve success, he developed a way to teach the qualities that he thought were necessary to become a success as a leader.
As Wooden came up with the different qualities for success, he decided that it should take the shape of a pyramid; since he deemed the Egyptian Pyramids as the world’s greatest structures, he wanted his success structure to be the same. He thought every part of the Pyramid was important, but the most important part was the foundation.
The bottom of the Pyramid included five qualities: industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, loyalty, and cooperation. Industriousness was defined by Wooden as “true work,” not just hard work, but rather focused, engaged work. Along with true work, a love for the task at hand must be present which is what he called enthusiasm. No one can be a success without enjoying what they are doing. The next block includes friendship. He meant that anyone on the team needs to have respect and companionship for members of the team. The last two blocks on the Pyramid included loyalty and cooperation. Both are self-explanatory, but leaders must be loyal to themselves and to the team, and they must be able to work with others. After creating the foundation, it is time to move on to the next tier
The Pyramid’s Second Tier
The next level of the Pyramid includes four qualities: self-control, alertness, initiative, and intentness. Self-control is concept of being able to keep emotion out of the way and to think clearly all the time. A person cannot control a company, if he or she does not have control of oneself. Alertness, according to Coach Wooden, is being able to observe the world around and consistently making an effort to improve. People with this ability are quicker at turning things around than those without it. The next block, initiative, means to not be afraid of mistakes as long as the decision was well-thought out. If a person never acts, that person will not succeed. Intentness is simply defined as persistence; a leader refuses to go down when people are telling him/her the game is over. With nine qualities in place, it is time to move on to the next stage.
The Heart of the Pyramid
All of the blocks are vital to the Pyramid, but the final traits are some of the most important: condition, skill, team spirit, poise, confidence, and competitive greatness. Conditioning involves mental, moral, and physical condition. The way to obtain proper conditioning is to practice moderation and balance. Without moderation and balance, it is easy to make mistakes. The next quality, skill, is knowing all aspects of the job at hand. A leader who constantly learns and updates information is quicker to execute correctly. Team spirit is promoting the team before the individual. With this belief, everyone is selfless, and the organization shall benefit. Poise is the next block, and it is the ability to stay true, unshaken, and balanced no matter what arises. Poise or lack thereof, is easy to spot when the going gets tough. After poise, comes confidence, and it should not be mistaken for arrogance. Confidence is knowing that the team has done everything possible to prepare for the competition. Coach Wooden defined the next attribute, competitive greatness, as “a real love for the hard battle, knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required” (Wooden 52). People must enjoy the struggle or contest because it brings out their best effort and without that, success is unattainable.
Coach Wooden included two more attributes that help lead to success, but he did not give them one of the fifteen blocks. He added them as side structures to the Pyramid, and they were faith and patience. Every leader along their way to success will encounter hard times, fatigue, and stress, but it is only the great leaders that fight through the frustration by having the qualities of faith and patience at their side. When acquiring all the different qualities of the Pyramid, these two attributes will be needed. Not everything comes right when it is wanted and not all tasks are easily completed because if it was that simple, more people would be successful. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Genius is nothing but a greater aptitude for patience”(Wooden 55).
With the fifteen blocks and two side structures obtained, leaders, in Wooden’s eyes, can call themselves a success. “When you’ve done your best you may call yourself a success” (Wooden 55). And with all those qualities, your best is all you know how to do.
Lessons In Leadership:
Good Values Attract Good People
A starting point for leaders is for them to understand that having good moral values will attract good moral employees. It is important for all organizations to have managers and fellow employees sharing the same values and beliefs for the workplace because having the cohesion of their beliefs provides a work environment that becomes more efficient and easier to work in. The best way for an employee to learn what their company is all about is to watch their manager; so it is necessary that managers lead by proper example.
Use The Most Powerful Four-Letter Word
In business, new managers will soon learn that no one is the same, and some employees will put them on edge. Much like a parent with many kids, the manager does not and probably will not like everyone the same, but the manager needs to love everyone the same. People respond differently in any situation, and their reactions may drive their manager up the wall. Although the manager may create different views about each employee, it is his or her responsibility to care for everyone’s well-being equally. A person who knows they are cared about realizes that they are important and make a contribution.
Call Yourself A Teacher
A person in leadership should not assume that their job is to simply lead; it is much more than that. Any type of leader should consider themselves a teacher; a person that not only tells people how to do something, but shows them how to do it in a proper, easy-to-grasp manner. The leader is responsible for making sure everyone is current on information and processes so the teacher must constantly be learning as well to conquer this. Just like a teacher wears many hats inside the classroom (instructor, disciplinarian, custodian, mediator, etc.), the leader should do the same.
Emotion Is Your Enemy
Leaders need to understand the difference between intensity and emotionalism. Intensity is giving maximum effort without getting too high or too low. Being too excited could lead to rash or bias solutions, which may be inadequate. Expressing emotion instead of having correct intensity leads to erratic performance. Implementing emotional discipline will help prevent employees from experiencing emotional peaks and valleys.
It Takes 10 Hands To Score A Basket
In any organization, there will always be a top performer or a more talented person than the rest of the work field. It is very important the leader insist that no person’s performance can be maximized without the maximum effort of the team. The welfare of the team must come first for everyone. The team needs to learn how to share, whether it is ideas or information so that the organization can benefit. The top performers will get their accolades, but it is the manager’s responsibility that the lower performers get their praise as well to ensure that everyone feels important. Chemistry between the team needs to be created so they work well with each other; having the best performers does not mean it will make the best team.
Little Things Make Big Things Happen
Success starts at the bottom. It is great to have big goals, but those goals are just dreams without the smaller steps it takes to attain it. The smaller steps need to be the focus of the organization; the big goal is simply the outcome of the focus. Not only should the company focus on small tasks, they should focus on perfecting them because sloppy work leads to more sloppy work.
Make Each Day Your Masterpiece
Time could be one of the most valuable assets to a company. A leader that utilizes time efficiently is normally more successful than a poorly organized one. Keeping track of time through records helps keep the team on schedule and allows them to never get behind if properly guided. People do not realize how important time is until there is not enough left.
As the reader has finished interpreting the previous section, what it takes to become successful is clearly defined now. In the following chapters, Coach Wooden gives advice to leaders that have gone through the process of learning the Pyramid of Success. In this section of the book, it shows how to build a successful unit that brings the performance results you desire.
The Carrot Is Mightier Than A Stick
Employers differ in opinion when it comes to dealing with their employees’ behavior or performance. Some use punishments to invoke a certain behavior, but some use a rewards system. People who put fear into their team’s mind through punishment are putting the team at a disadvantage, but those who instill pride in the hearts of their team put the team at an advantage. There are proper times to issue penalties and criticism, but it should be clearly defined by the organization. When criticism is given, managers should be the only people allowed to give it out, but it must be handled in a correct positive manner.
Make Greatness Attainable By All
When managing a team, it is important to stress the fact that everyone is accountable for the team’s success. Team members should be encouraged to advance their own individual aspirations, but not until their current position is mastered. It should be remembered that everyone has the potential to be great; it is the leader’s responsibility to find the hidden talents.
Seek Significant Change
Leaders that attain success and keep it know to never become satisfied. They understand that satisfaction eventually leads to failure, and they must continuously reshape their goals as they are accomplished. Managers should not use excuses to prevent them from advancing; everyone needs to play the hand they are dealt. The question, “How to improve?”, needs to become part of leader’s everyday philosophy.
Don’t Look At The Scoreboard
Teams do not need to look ahead to future goals; they should concentrate on the present time. Goals should be known by everyone in the organization, but the focus needs to be short-termed. All members of the company need to have respect for the competition because nothing can be taken for granted. As soon as complacency is in place, failure seems to follow. If everyone stays focused and accomplishes what needs to be done today, then everyone can be successful tomorrow.
Adversity Is Your Asset
Leaders and managers alike should understand that adverse times are experienced by everyone and usually come when least expected. Great leaders separate themselves from the pack because they expect adversity and use it to their advantage. No one should expect sympathy; they must take their situation and decide their own fate. Using the Pyramid, adversity should become precious, and it sometimes shows where improvements are needed.
Lessons From My Notebook
Along Coach Wooden’s journey to success, he learned a few things that he tried to pass along to all of his understudies. Besides talking about personal coaching experiences and strategies during the game, he discussed quality information that would be helpful to the everyday businessman leading a team.
First, all organizations and teams must start off with a plan. It must be remembered that this is just a starting point. Everyone must be on the same page, but this will not create the team; that will come later.
A leader’s first impression with his team usually last a lifetime. So every manager should start off the first encounter by setting the standard for the team. This lets the organization know the expectations from their leaders.
Lists should become valuable to managers. They could be in the form of a step-by-step process or just simple reminders. By utilizing lists, time can be managed more effectively and more things can get accomplished. Aside from those types of lists, records should be kept to accurately show how certain situations occurred and how they were handled.
Rules should also be defined clearly to the rest of the team. Leaders should not be too extensive with the rules, but rather have many suggestions because exceptions to your rules will always come into play.
Criticism is something to not play lightly with. Managers must teach those under their supervision how to take criticism. If not it is not given correctly, it can seriously damage the critiqued individual, but can be very effective if utilized the proper way. Criticism should only be given by a leader that knows how to correctly give it out.
Improvement needs to always be on the minds of managers because there is always room for it. Satisfaction is unacceptable, and constantly seeking improvement will prevent this from occurring. It needs to be understood that proper facilities are needed for improvement to take place.
Throughout the life of Coach Wooden, he has become known as a true success in not only basketball, but in life itself. Through his life lessons and personal findings, he developed a guide for individuals to lead by. He will forever be remembered as a person who dynamically changed the fundamentals of leadership in the world today.
- The author is one of the most brilliant people around because:
Coach John Wooden was one of the most brilliant people around because of how he lived his life. Not only do I have the utmost respect for him, but everyone that has come in contact with him has said the same. He was a person of great character with almost perfectly shaped values and beliefs. His Pyramid of Success could be one of the greatest tools for helping leaders (or anyone) to reach their full potential which results in true success in his eyes. Although he was just an English teacher and a famous basketball coach, the way he approached everything was very business-like. By creating a team that was completely absorbed in the welfare of the group rather than the individual, he became one of the most respected leaders in any sport or business, especially basketball.
- If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:
1. I would have given more business world examples. Many of his examples were from his profession as a basketball coach, and when Coach Wooden incorporated how it applies to business, he was somewhat vague about it. His business examples were good, but they could have been elaborated on more.
2. I would have broken the first two sections of the book into two separate books. The amount of knowledge that Coach Wooden possessed was incredible, and he could have wrote an entire book on the Pyramid of Success and how to execute it. He could have discussed in more detail the importance of each quality and how to obtain them. The second section of the book has loads of quality data. The information could have been expanded more without boring the reader because it was very obvious that he was a brilliant intellectual. The Pyramid of Success can be a pre-read before his lessons in leadership, but it is still possible to grasp his concepts without the two together.
3. I would have left out the last section, Lessons From My Notebook. It was a good section, but, being a MBA student, I was not as interested about hearing how he ran his practices. The last section was really for other coaches; to serve as guidance for their coaching endeavors. If he could have given examples of how he executed his values outside of his work environment that may have interested the business reader more.
- Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:
1. For most of my life, I was always focused on the end result; win or lose, pass or fail, etc. After reading this book, I realized that the end result is simply a by-product of your actions. It helped me to start focusing on planning, preparation, and practice, and by focusing on these steps, my desired outcome should not be far behind. In today’s society, you are judged by wins and losses or passing and failing, but the ones with more wins are usually more prepared than their counterparts.
2. Coach Wooden definitely opened my eyes in that individual accomplishments should not by thought about; instead, the welfare of organization should be first on everyone’s mind. If everyone is on the same page with this concept, success is easier to obtain. With this type of thinking, the individual accomplishments and awards will find you eventually.
3. Possibly the most important thing I learned from Coach Wooden is his definition of success- “a 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” (Wooden 3). Only I can say if I am a success, not others. If I go out and maximize my individual potential, regardless of the outcome, there is no way I cannot call myself a success. Success is different for everyone; it is not just wins and losses.
- I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:
1. I will apply and use Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success during my career because I believe it shows the proper steps to become a successful businessman. It takes certain traits (according to Wooden) to be a successful leader, and from analyzing those traits, it is clear to me that they are necessary in life. By following the Pyramid every day, the traits will be how I conduct my life, and before long, I should have the desired results by following John Wooden’s footsteps.
2. I will also apply the concept that the organization is more important than me. If I use this method of thinking, then not only would it benefit the company, but it will be recognized by others and be beneficial to me as well.
3. When I get into a position of management, I will stress the importance of every job in the organization, much like Coach Wooden did with his teams. This would improve job satisfaction for all jobs in the company because it will give a sense of responsibility to the individual. Stressing job importance can also show the employees their contributions to their fellow workers. It is important to know that big goals cannot happen without the execution of the little tasks correctly and efficiently.
“John Wooden Quotes.” Find the Famous Quotes You Need, ThinkExist.com Quotations.
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Key, Verdean. “Previous Thoughts.” Home. Web. 19 Mar. 2011.
Wooden, John, and Steve Jamison. Wooden on Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill,
To contact the author of this article, “A Summary and Review of Wooden On Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One,” please email Isaac Rodriguez at W0325244@selu.edu.
David C. Wyld (email@example.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of works he has helped his students to turn into editorially-reviewed publications at the following sites:
- Management Concepts (http://toptenmanagement.blogspot.com/)
- Book Reviews (http://wyld-about-books.blogspot.com/) and
- Travel and International Foods (http://wyld-about-food.blogspot.com/).