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Coach John Wooden Pyramid of Success

The Art of LeadershipWhen Coach Wooden addressed the UCLA Coaches Development Program in 2002 regarding his views on leadership, he shared some ideas from Wilferd Peterson’s essay on “The Art of Leadership” from his book The Art of Living:

Related: John Wooden’s Leadership Legacy

Simply and plainly defined, a leader is man who has followers. The leader deserves to have followers. He has earned recognition. Authority alone is no longer enough to command respect.

The leader is a servant. As the Master of Men expressed it, “And whosoever would be chief among you, let him be your servant.”

The leader sees through the eyes of his followers.

The leader does not say, “Get going!” Instead, he says, “Let’s go!” and leads the way. He does not walk behind with a whip; he is out in front with a banner.

The leader assumes his followers are working with him, not for him. He sees that they share in the rewards. He glorifies the team spirit.

The leader is a man builder. The more men he can build, the stronger the organization will be, himself included.

Related: Do These 7 Things If You Want to Become a Leader

The leader has faith in people. He believes in them, trusts them and thus draws out the best in them.

The leader uses his heart as well as his head. After he has looked at the facts with his head, he lets his heart take a look, too. He is a friend.

The leader plans and sets things in motion. He is a man of action as well as a man of thought.

The leader has a sense of humor. He is not a stuffed shirt. He can laugh at himself. He has a humble spirit.

The leader can be led. He is not interested in having his own way, but in finding the best way. He has an open mind.

The leader keeps his eyes on high goals. He strives to make the efforts of his followers and himself contribute to the enrichment of personality, the achievement of more abundant living for all and the improvement of all.

In his book Practical Modern Basketball, Coach Wooden summarized his thoughts this way:

“The coach who makes a sincere and determined effort to follow the leadership ideas and ideals that I have taken from the essay by Mr. Peterson is certain to improve his leadership qualifications and enhance the possibility of a successful team.

“A team without leadership is like a ship without a rudder that is certain to wander aimlessly and will probably end up going around in circles and getting nowhere.

“Of course, the coach must know the game and know his players to be able to provide proper leadership, but he must realize, welcome and assume the full responsibility.”

Related: How to Set a Good Example

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.