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Pride is a better motivator than fear.

In his book Wooden with Steve Jamison, Coach expanded on this idea:

Pride is a better motivator than fear. I never wanted to teach through fear, punishment or intimidation.

Fear may work in the short term to get people to do something, but over the long run, I believe personal pride is a much greater motivator. It produces far better results that last for a much longer time.

Remember, pride comes when you give respect.

A leader must be able to maintain discipline and also maintain respect, and do so while instilling pride, not fear.

In his book Coach Wooden’s Leadership Game Plan for Success, Coach discussed how to do both:

Dictator-style leaders rule by fear and force, humiliation and intimidation. These are the same “leadership” tools used by a prison guard.

You achieve better results with talented people when you treat them like human beings.

I was often critical of players, but I tried hard to avoid personal attacks, embarrassment or demeaning comments, which would make them less likely to take my criticism to heart.

Doug McIntosh, a former player and a member of the 1964 and 1966 national championship teams, described Coach this way:

He was strict, but there was no sense of fear of him by players. We knew there was nothing personal in his criticism or comments.

What he did was always for the common good and welfare of the team. We all knew that and wanted the same. He taught that discipline is the mark of a good team.

Coach believed that the most powerful motivator is a compliment from someone you respect.It creates pride.

In his book Wooden on Leadership, Coach expanded on the idea:

Positive words become meaningless when offered habitually and excessively. I avoided the phrase, “That’s great.” Instead I would say, “Good, very good, getting better.” I kept in mind that how I conveyed information was often as important as the information itself. My tone was measured and my demeanor controlled.

In Leadership Game Plan, former player Bill Walton described Coach Wooden’s style:

Coach Wooden expected you to be really good. Being really good was normal. He didn’t think we needed to be complimented for doing what was normal.

However, as players, we knew we were rising to a greater level when we’d see a wink, a nod and a little smile on his face.

Then he would blow his whistle and say, “Now do it again. faster.”

Related: The Art of Leadership

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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.