Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

50 Great Quotes on Leadership from John Wooden

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Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden and Steve Jamison. McGraw-Hill Education. 321 pages. 2005.
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I’ve long respected John Wooden for the values he brought to leadership as one of the greatest coaches of all time. For example, over a twelve-year period at UCLA, Wooden won an incredible ten NCAA national basketball championships, including a record seven in a row.  I’ve rarely highlighted as many passages in a book as I did with this one.

The book is divided into three main sections:
Part 1: The Foundation for My Leadership. In this section he covers the 15 fundamental values that were the blocks for his Pyramid of Success. He writes that he believed that they are prerequisites for a leader and an organization whose goal is to perform at the highest level of which they are capable.

Part 2: Lessons in Leadership. This is the section that I most appreciated and where I highlighted a large number of leadership quotes. After each teaching by Wooden there would be a helpful “Suggestions to Lead By” and an “On Wooden” section by some of Wooden’s former players and coaches.

Part 3: Lessons from My Notebook. This section was my least favorite of the book, having the least application for general (non-basketball) leadership. What was most interesting to me was that this section included pages or excerpts of pages from notebooks he used through the years in his teaching—notes, observations, reminders, suggestions, and lists of relevant goals and how to achieve them.

As I mentioned, I highlighted a large number of passages as I read the book. I’ve eliminated many of them to get down to 50 of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • I believe that’s what leadership is all about: helping others to achieve their own greatness by helping the organization to succeed.
  • I believe leadership itself is largely learned.
  • Whatever coaching and leadership skills I possess were learned through listening, observation, study, and then trial and error along the way.
  • It’s the quality of your effort that counts most and offers the greatest and most long-lasting satisfaction.
  • The joy is in the journey of pushing yourself to the outward limits of your ability and teaching your organization to do the same.
  • Effort is the ultimate measure of your success.
  • I do not judge success based on championships; rather, I judge it on how close we came to realizing our potential.
  • Reputation is what others perceive you as being, and their opinion may be right or wrong. Character, however, is what you really are, and nobody truly knows that but you. But you are what matters most.
  • A strong leader accepts blame and gives the credit. A weak leader gives blame and accepts the credit.
  • Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to stay there.
  • Practice moderation and balance in all that you do.
  • The best leaders understand that to successfully compete at any level requires continuous learning and improvement.
  • 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 learn after you know it all that counts most.
  • Character—doing the right thing—is fundamental to successful leadership
  • For me, a good explanation of character is simple: respect for yourself, respect for others, respect for the game, whether it’s basketball, business, or anything else.
  • A leader with character attracts talent with the same.
  • Who you are inside—what you believe—is important, but what you do means more, much more. Actions trump words, and your values must be visible if they are to have an impact on those you lead or hope to attract as part of your team.
  • Character counts and values matter. And you, the leader, set the standard for both in your organization.
  • For me, leadership is a sacred trust.
  • I believe you must have love in your heart for the people under your leadership. I did.
  • For a good leader, the team is nothing less than extended family.
  • Team members wouldn’t be treated the same or alike; rather, each one would receive the treatment they earned and deserved.
  • I believe effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers.
  • Your own personal example is one of the most powerful leadership tools you possess. Put it to good use: Be what you want your team to become.
  • A leader who is through learning is through.
  • A leader who is ruled by emotions, whose temperament is mercurial, produces a team whose trademark is the roller coaster—ups and downs in performance; unpredictability and un-dependability in effort and concentration; one day good, the next day bad.
  • Sharing credit is a surefire way of improving the performance results for any organization.
  • Little things, done well, make big things happen for you and your organization.
  • A casual approach to executing the details of a job ensures that the job will be done poorly.
  • I fully understood that the success of my leadership was directly linked to using time wisely.
  • I came to the conclusion that when choosing between the carrot and the stick as a motivational tool, the well-chosen carrot was almost always more powerful and longer lasting than the stick.
  • Each member of your team has a potential for personal greatness; the leader’s job is to help them achieve it.
  • I believe that personal greatness is measured against one’s own potential, not against that of someone else on the team or elsewhere.
  • Personal greatness for any leader is measured by effectiveness in bringing out the greatness of those you lead.
  • Don’t worry about being better than someone else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become.
  • Are you holding your team back with misconceived notions and false limitations? Identify and then eliminate them. Seek solutions rather than excuses.
  • I believe one of the requirements of good leadership is the ability to listen—really listen—to those in your organization.
  • I believe that you must have people around you willing to ask questions and express opinions, people who seek improvement for the organization rather than merely gaining favor with the boss.
  • Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
  • The most productive leaders are usually those who are consistently willing to listen and learn.
  • Success is more often attained by asking “how?” than by saying “no.”
  • Contentment with past accomplishments or acceptance of the status quo can derail an organization quickly.
  • Assume improvement is always possible and force yourself—and others—to find out how.
  • New ideas and perspective from those under your leadership are essential for achieving and maintaining a competitive edge.
  • If your word is nothing, you’re not much better.
  • A leader whose promise means something is trusted. Trust counts for everything in leadership.
  • Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.
  • A good leader never stops learning. A great leader never stops teaching.
  • Past achievements for any leader or organization will occur again in the future only with equal, or greater, effort.
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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 38 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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