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To me, the words "Wooden" and "leadership" are synonymous. On and off various basketball courts, first as a player and then as a coach, John Wooden demonstrated talents, skills, and qualities of character seldom found in a single person. He led others by example but also by the force of his convictions. After reading this book, some may conclude that he was "idealistic,' "naive," "corny," "old-fashioned," etc. Not so. In fact, he was a strict disciplinarian with non-negotiable values who had zero-tolerance of attitude and behavior he perceived to be selfish, rude, unsportsmanlike, or indolent. He invariably accepted his team's defeat with grace but was saddened - sometimes so angered he exclaimed "Goodness gracious sakes!" -- by anything less than a best-effort, not only by his assistant coaches and players but also (especially) by himself. It should be added that, according to those who know him best (including coaches of opponents' teams), he has always been an exceptionally thoughtful, caring, and decent person.

What we have in this volume is an on-going narrative provided by Coach Wooden during which he shares everything he learned about achieving and then sustaining excellence. Of special interest to me is the series of "On Wooden" commentaries which include those provided by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Denny Crum, Gary Cunningham, Gail Goodrich, and Lynn Shackleford. Although the specifics vary from one to the next, all of their authors agree on Coach Wooden's greatness both as a coach and as a man. One of the most interesting anecdotes is provided by Eddie Powell, who played on the South Bend Central High School varsity team which Wooden coached. The bus was about to depart for a game against Mishawacka High School. The co-captains were absent.

Coach Wooden asked the driver what time the bus was scheduled to leave. "6 p.m., Coach, same as usual."

"Well, what time is it?"

`It's exactly 6 p.m., Coach Wooden."

"Well, that's what my watch says, too. I guess it must be 6 p.m...Let's go."

The bus left without the two most important players on the team. One of them was the son of a vice principal at South Bend Central, "the kind of a person who could create job problems for Coach Wooden. From that, we learned that Coach wasn't kidding: Be on time." Indeed meet all commitments to the team and especially in the classroom and to one's family. "We found out later that the co-captains had skipped our game with Mishawaka to go to a dance." Presumably everyone who played on U.C.L.A. basketball teams also soon learned that, when he explained what he expected of them, "Coach wasn't kidding."

With all due respect to his extraordinary success in basketball, I am convinced that John Wooden could have become a great leader in almost any other profession. Fortunately, as Steve Jamison observes, "The qualities and characteristics he possesses and has taught to his teams -- those good habits and how you teach them -- are available to everyone." Hopefully, decision-makers in the business world, public service, and the military will read this book so that they, also, are at all times a "leader" worthy of service to those entrusted to their care.
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Unless you have never seen a college basketball game, you probably know quite a bit about coach John Wooden and his success at UCLA. Several excellent books have attempted to capture the essence of his coaching philosophy. All of those books made you admire coach Wooden and want to emulate him. But you ended up feeling like you were dealing with a saint who emerged full formed from a clam shell. How could a mere mortal follow his foot steps?

Wooden on Leadership takes a revealing look at how that philosophy evolved, the mistakes he made along the way, how he corrected those mistakes and the regrets he has today. A high point for me came from seeing his notes during the years that the philosophy evolved.

You still feel like you are dealing with a saint, but a saint who (like Paul when he was Saul) started out with some imperfections that you may recognize in yourself.

I came to appreciate several dimensions of the Wooden philosophy that I hadn't understood before. Here is my new learning:

1. Focus on helping each player become the best they can be in contributing to the team, and help the players understand how they can and are contributing to the team.

2. Attract people with good values who are eager to improve in team contributions.

3. Set a good example.

4. There are no little things. Everything is important.

I hope that anyone who ever coaches children's or school sports will read this book and be encouraged to become a better leader. Even if you coach fencing, you can learn a lot from this book!
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When sports figures write books on leadership, they often take the easy route - athletic metaphors, game time war stories, tenuous applications of sports experiences to business. This refreshing book breaks through such superficial ideas as decisively as a dunk by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his prime. Ten-time national champion UCLA basketball coach John Wooden - generally considered the greatest college basketball coach to ever hold a clipboard - delivers a leadership book that stands alone at center court. Remarkably, none of Wooden's players recall him urging them to win. Instead, he urged them to do their best every moment. Take care of the process, he says, and the result will take care of itself. To Wooden, preparation is pivotal and every detail matters. Despite his almost obsessive focus on getting the little things right, Wooden believes in balance and consistency. He avoids extremes. Wooden's long-time collaborator and co-author Steve Jamison does a wonderful job of portraying, through the coach, a range of qualities, philosophies and characteristics that apply to every field. We strongly recommend this book to managers and executives who want to know how to lead people to victory in every game.
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on September 28, 2005
Coach Wooden, the legendary basketball coach outlines his pyramid for success in this wonderful book. I read a lot of business and self help books, and rarely make notes. I used my highlighter pen on almost every page in this great book. I absolutely suggest you read this wonderful book, endorsed by Stephen Covey, another wonderful author. I also strongly suggest Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self, also endorsed by Stephen Covey, because it provides the key to making the most of any circumstance, and life.
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on June 2, 2005
Sports, at any level, is an excellent point from which to view leadership abilities. Virtually all teams are identical in capability, at least within their league. Great efforts are made to insure that small high schools play small high schools. They don't play grammar schools or NBA teams.

As a result, the differences often come down to leadership. There's something that makes one coach consistently a winner. And John Wooden's record of 10 NCAA national championships in twelve years is nothing less than outstanding. That alone qualifies his thoughts on leadership to be worth noting.

He breaks down the route to success into a pyramid of skills, attitudes and abilities. This simplifies the understanding of what constitutes success and allows the route to success to be analyzed from many views. From this foundation Mr. Wooden outlines his principles for finding the champion in individuals and in teams.

This book shows that in addition to knowing how to coach, Mr. Wooden knows how to write and how to move his views to a field broader than sports.
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on August 7, 2005
You will not find a better, sounder book on leadership than this one and yet... it will not gain the wide readership it deserves. Wooden's emphasis on selflessness, self-control, making the team the star is an idea whose time has come and gone and sorely needs to come back. This is a great book that will be read by the people who need it less and ignored by the people who need it more and who WE need to have read this for everyone's sake.

I think every player that has been touched and shaped by John Wooden owes it to him and themselves to "pay it forward" to the people in their lives. Wooden's message needs to go on after him.
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on December 31, 2005
I had no intention of buying this book. It caught my eye on the way to the graphic design and filmmaking section during the summer of 2005, a time when I take a mental rest from basketball and indulge myself in other things. But being a basketball coach and AD, and a big fan of John Wooden, I took a glance out of curiosity. I randomly opened up the book to a page where Coach Wooden was talking about one of my weaknesses in coaching, an area of leadership that I know I could improve upon. As I read, it was as if he was speaking to me directly.

I just had to buy the book.

I am not one for fads or religious reawakening type experiences. But learning is a lifelong passion. This book had a great influence on my coaching. It is not about Xs and Os. And it didn't revolutionize my coaching overnight.

What it did was made me rethink every aspect of what I do with regard to leadership with my Girls' basketball teams. I got hit over the head more than once as mentioned above. I got reminded about what is important. I was shown how to deal with difficult situations. And just as importantly, this book helped me reaffirm, through the example of one of the greatest, things that I insist upon but which I am often criticized for.

The stories Wooden tells, the stuggles he went through, the mistakes he regrets having made 50 years ago and the system of success he developed are stories that will help you in your coaching. The fact is, they will help you in anything you do in life. The anecdotes from former players are priceless. They show you the power and value of John Wooden's teachings. In fact, many of the stories and player anecdotes I read over again and again. Some had important lessons. Some were just plain entertaining.

I would hope to become a better and better coach. Only my players can answer that. What I can say is that I am much better off for having read this book.

If you are a basketball coach, read and reread everything as I have done. You will learn things that no basketball technique video could provide. This is one special book. I highly recommend it for coaches or anyone who is in a leadership position.
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on September 23, 2010
I bought this book and also the "Essential Wooden". The latter I rated 5 stars and also reviewed.
This is an amazing book on leadership, taught by one of the best coach/leaders we have ever known. You will be taught and exposed to many great concepts that anyone in leadership positions can utilize, and the reason it got 4/5 instead of 5 stars, is because this book is essentially a prolonged/padded version of the "Essentail Wooden", which is also written by Steve Jamison.

Having read both, I found this longer, bigger version is more padded, with "extras" such as scanned notes of Wooden's, that didn't add much to what was already shared in the other book. Now to be fair, this version was published in 2005, and the "Essential Wooden" is published in 2007, so I had read in reverse the order, but in short, you can get all the teachings of Wooden, in a more/better written format, in the Essential Wooden and skip this volume entirely. A great book regardless.
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on June 23, 2015
Wooden on Leadership is one of the best leadership books I have ever read. The two themes I like most are below and then my top 20 highlights from the book are provided.

Theme 1 - One of the primary things I like about Wooden’s leadership style is that he believes in maintaining emotional control at all times. He wants intensity not emotionalism and there is a difference.
Comments - Too many times I encounter leaders that actually prohibit effectiveness because they have not managed to control their emotions. Unfortunately the media, especially the sports media mistakenly regularly convey that emotional displays or outbursts are leadership in action.
Theme 2 - Wooden believes the best leaders are lifelong learners.
Comments - This is absolutely true, but the challenge we have is making time for the learning. Leadership training and reading books on leadership is not primarily about getting new techniques. If you are experienced often you know the majority of what’s out there. Leadership training and reading books on leadership is about regulating behavior. We read the leadership books and take the training to assure we are performing according to what we know. I cannot even tell you how many times someone has come up to me after a leadership class and said some form of “you reminded me of many things I know and used to do but I had gotten away from them.” Leadership is a skill that involves fundamentals and subtleties and without continual review performance suffers. Professional sports teams don’t just practice the skills and plays they already know to occupy time, if they don’t practice what they already know performance suffers. They have to make time for practice. Learning is not just the acquisition of new knowledge it is also the reinforcement of what we already know. We have to make time for it. What was the last leadership book your boss read? What was the last leadership book you read?
My top 20 highlights from Wooden on Leadership
1. Mutual respect and camaraderie strengthen your team. Affection, in fact, may weaken it by causing you to play favorites.
2. First and foremost, you are their leader, not their buddy.
3. As a leader you must be sincerely committed to what’s right rather than who’s right.
4. For many years I’ve described one of the differences between a good leader and a prison guard is cooperation. When you carry a rifle it is unnecessary to listen...
5. Self-Control in little things leads to control of bigger things. For example, the reason I prohibited profanity – a small issue – during practices was because it was usually caused by frustration or anger. I felt that a player who couldn’t control his language when he got upset during a scrimmage would be more likely to lose control in more damaging ways during the heat of competition – fouling, fighting, or making other poor decisions that would almost always hurt the team.
6. Hesitancy, indecisiveness, vacillation, and fear of failure are not characteristics I associate with good leadership. I told our team many times: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” By that I meant to make a decision, take action, decide what you’re going to do and do it. Keep this word of caution in mind: “Failure to act is often the biggest failure of all.”
7. Mistakes, even failure, can be permissible so long as they do not result from carelessness or poor preparation
8. “The one who once most wisely said, ‘Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.’ Might have added this to it, ‘Be sure you are wrong before you quit.’”
9. The best leaders are lifelong learners, they take measures to create organizations that foster and inspire learning throughout. The most effective leaders are those who realize it’s what you know after you know it all that counts most.
10. Benjamin Franklin understood its value quite well: “Genius is nothing but a greater aptitude for patience.”
11. “I will not like you all the same, but I will love you all the same. And whether I like you are not, my feelings will not interfere with my judgment of your effort and performance. You will be treated fairly. That’s a promise.”
12. Nobody cares how much you know (until they know how much you care).
13. That’s when I began announcing that the team members wouldn’t be treated the same or alike; rather, each one would receive the treatment they earned and deserved.
14. Do not equate professional expertise with your ability to teach it.
15. I prize intensity and fear emotionalism. Consistency in high performance and production is a trademark of effective and successful organizations and those who lead them. Emotionalism destroys consistency. A leader who is ruled by emotions, whose temperament is mercurial, produce a team whose trademark is roller coaster-ups and downs in performance; unpredictability and un-dependability in effort and concentration; one day good, the next day bad.
16. …emotional control is a primary component of consistency, which is in turn a component of success.
17. A volatile leader is like a bottle of nitroglycerine. The slightest knock and it blows up. Those around nitroglycerine or a temperamental boss spend all their time carefully tiptoeing back and forth rather than doing their jobs. It is not an environment, in my opinion conducive to winning organizations.
18. Managing egos-the over- and underinflated, the forceful and the fragile- is one of the greatest challenges facing any leader.
19. Explain to each team member precisely how his or her contributions connect to the welfare and success of the entire organization.
20. PRIVATE AND PUBLIC PRAISE – Acknowledging top producers does not always have to be done publicly It is often effective for a leader to praise their outstanding performance when others are not around. It gives the “superstar” deserved recognition without creating resentment. Conversely, praise for those in lesser roles is often maximized by doing it in a more public manner.

Dr. James T. Brown, Author,
The Handbook of Program Management
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on July 4, 2005
This book clearly defines how the fundamentals that John Wooden developed in coaching basketball and sports can be applied to business leadership. I find that his building blocks in the pyramid to success he describes are great barometers to determine how my own leadership skills are perceived and where I need to improve.

If I were to venture a guess, I think this will be a book with great staying power. The fundamentals, though possibly "old fashioned" for some of today's sports enthusiasts, nevertheless ring true. Perhaps sticking to these fundamentals are why he was so successful over such a long period of time during a period of radical social change. Most noteworthy, the players he coached have written their own views many years later of why his methods rang true with them and the impact upon their own lives.

It might really be hard to be this kind of coach today (though I think some of the most successful follow these ideas). And it is sometimes hard to follow these fundamentals in highly competitive business situations where flash and charisma can sometimes bury those applying the consistency described in this book. But, I honestly believe that in the long run, these fundamentals will lead to team success. So, for those who ultimately are concerned about the success of a team (or company), this is a must read.
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