WOODEN ON LEADERSHIP – John Wooden and Steve Jamison (2005)

John Wooden is in the minds of many the greatest basketball coach of all time.  He won 10 national championships and tallied 88 consecutive wins at UCLA.  Wooden on Leadership explores the inner workings of Coach Wooden’s approach to coaching and his approach to life in general.


Wooden summarizes his view on leadership: “Helping others to achieve their own greatness by helping the organization succeed.”  While Wooden was wired to compete, national championships were not first and foremost on his mind.  He told his players, “When it’s over, I want your heads up.  And there’s only one way your heads can be up – that’s to give it your best out there, everything you have.”

Part one unpacks Wooden’s famous “pyramid of success.”  Originally conceived before Wooden became of head coach of the UCLA Bruins, the pyramid describes the heart and soul of Wooden’s leadership style.  The foundation includes  the cornerstone qualities of industriousness (hard work) and enthusiasm.  Also included in the foundation of the pyramid are friendship (respect and camaraderie), loyalty, and cooperation.

The blocks in the second tier of Wooden’s pyramid of success includes self-control, alertness, initiative, and intentness.

Next, Wooden describes the heart of the pyramid of success which includes condition (mental, moral, and physical), skill (lifelong learning and executing one’s job properly), team spirit (sacrificing for the sake of others), and poise.  Faith and patience are the “mortar” in the pyramid which leads ultimately to success.


Part two, which makes up the bulk of the book includes miscellaneous lessons that Coach Wooden has learned as a result of his coaching career.  Wooden stresses the importance of values and good character.  He warns against unchecked emotion.  He encourages good teaching skills: “… Effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers.”  Teamwork is a must.  The little things matter.  Time must be mastered.  Make adversity an ally.  Make decisions rooted in integrity.


The final section includes excerpts from Coach Wooden’s notebook – “notes, observations, reminders, suggestions, and lists of relevant goals and how to achieve them.”  Wooden also includes detailed descriptions of what he expected from his players.

Coach Wooden writes, “Your ability to bring forth – maximize – the potential and abilities of those under your leadership marks you as a great competitor and leader.”  This seems to capture the essence of Wooden’s leadership philosophy. 

Wooden on Leadership is an inside look at one of the greatest coaches to step on the hardwood.  The lessons that Wooden taught his players on the basketball court may be directly applied to the real world.  Perhaps this is what made Wooden such an effective coach – he was tuned into the real world and transferred his practical knowledge and leadership to young men who would in turn become leaders in their communities.

4 stars

4 thoughts on “WOODEN ON LEADERSHIP – John Wooden and Steve Jamison (2005)

  1. Sounds like a great book! Do you like to read books on leadershiop? I didn’t know. Wooden was the last great coach with personal integrity. Old-school in a good way.
    P.S. love the snow.

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