• For Coach Wooden, 10 national championships are summed up in the simplicity of an elegant formula:
10 = C + F + U
(Conditioning + Fundamentals + Unity).
John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership
I have recently revisited the book Wooden on Leadership (I presented my synopsis of this book for the first time back in March, 2006). John Wooden was the coach of the unequalled UCLA Men’s basketball Team. He led them to 10 national championships, (number two on that list is a tie between Adolph Rupp and Mike Kryzewski, with four each. Look at that number again – the two #2 coaches have four titles each, Coach Wooden has ten!). His other records are almost too numerous to list. So, in other words, in Men’s Basketball, there is Coach Wooden, and everyone else…
Recently, President Obama announced that the great Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestorwed by a president. Pat Summitt may be the only true peer to Coach Wooden (or, maybe, Coach Wooden may the the only true peer to Coach Summitt). She won 8 national championships with the Women’s team at Tennessee, but, sadly, her career was cut short with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. When she receives her honor, that will increase the number of basketball coaches on the list to two – Coach Summit and Coach Wooden. (President George W. Bush awarded the medal to Coach Wooden in 2003).
In revisiting Wooden on Leadership, I learned again that what matters is basic, simple… His pyramid is legendary, but his approach is pretty fully revealed in that simple formula above.
Conditioning + Fundamentals + Unity.
Pretty good advice for all of us.
Conditioning: Coach Wooden wanted his player to still have their energy and focus in the last minutes of each game. That required conditioning.
We are not a very fit nation. Obesity is on the rise. And every extra pound lowers our stamina just a bit. And lower stamina means a little less energy to do our work, and definitely makes it harder to maintain our focus.
Coach Wooden ran tight practices, planned to the minute. He believed that a two hour practice, well-planned and run, was more valuable than any longer practice that was not organized well. From his book:
You “expand time” with proper organization and execution – an hour becomes longer than 60 minutes. A well-organized leader can get more done in two hours than a poorly organized coach gets done in two days.
Fundamentals: what are the basics? For Coach Wooden, he literally started every season with a meticulous lesson/demonstration on how to put on your socks. Without learning this true fundamental, players developed too many blisters. (And his former players would remember this, and refer to it, for a lifetime). The question “What are the basics?” needs to be revisited time and time again.
In a recent presentation of this synopsis to a group of leaders within an organization, I began with Peter Drucker’s three foundational questions:
What is your business?
Who is your customer?
What does your customer consider value?
And then, I referred to the process of answering these three questions as the business basics – the business fundamentals.
Unity: No matter how talented any one player is, when that person undermined team unity, the team suffered. Coach Wooden wrote:
The star of the team is the team.
It takes ten hands to score a basket.
Team unity, organizational unity… these are critical. Any threat to such unity must be dealt with, and quickly…
I have read a lot of books on leadership. But this one should be close to first on any leadership reading list. It reminds us all of the starting point, the basics, the true essence of leadership. Read it. I think it will make you want it be a better leader, and a better person.
Take a good luck at Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. It provides quite a life-long agenda…