April 5, 2004 worth having. Otherwise you LESSON NO. 4: Reset your focus. might waste your entire career While remaining alert to exter- marching in the wrong direction. nal conditions, focus mainly on Additionally, in defining suc- yourself and your internal team. cess, include the process as well Wooden hardly scouted his op- as the end results. Are you devel- ponents. Instead, he emphasized oping good character and work the factor within his control: ethic in the course of pursuing preparing his players to execute CHRIS NELSON your goals? to the best of their abilities. Guest Columnist As Wooden wrote, “winning This internal mindset motivat- games, titles, and championships ed Wooden to tailor drills for each Coach Wooden isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but getting there, the journey, is a lot more than it’s cracked up to be.” player. At the same time, he ran constant exercises to mesh his sometimes prima donna athletes can teach you LESSON NO. 2: Be passionate. A lukewarm leader is worse into a cohesive, functioning whole. Shaquille O’Neal, current Lak- how to play, than no leader at all. Be passion- ate about what you do. Unless you care enough to ers center, reflected that “John Wooden sat me down in college ... too and said, ‘Being great ain’t all jump into the flames, why should about scoring and making the your staff follow when a fire fantastic play. It’s about how rages? No one’s a leader if there everybody else plays around are no followers. W HEN IT COMES TO BASKETBALL, I’m a turncoat. Call me Benedict Arnold, but The crux of leadership is gener- ating passion and enthusiasm. you.’“ What’s your focus? In my mind, the truest measure of lead- even though I root for the USC Since enthusiasm is contagious, ership is whether you improve Trojans in football, once March being passionate yourself will the people on your team. Don’t Madness arrives, you’ll find me stimulate individuals around you let external conditions distract secretly pulling for the UCLA to ever-higher levels of achieve- you from making your associates Bruins. ment. In a nutshell, personal pas- smarter, better, and more produc- There’s a simple explanation sion leads to group enthusiasm, tive. for my conflicting team loyalties: which spawns corporate momen- John Wooden. I’m a Bruins bas- tum. LESSON NO. 5: Never stop learn- ketball fan because of the team’s A side effect of passion is view- ing. legendary coach, “the Wizard of ing no job as beneath you. I never To the best of my knowledge, Westwood.” ask my associates to perform a no one’s discovered a leadership As one of the most successful task I wouldn’t do myself. And gene; it’s an acquired skill honed college coaches ever, Wooden yes, that means that when neces- over time. Therefore, there’s a guided UCLA to seven straight sary I move furniture, stuff en- simple prescription for better national titles and 10 overall, velopes, and answer phones. leadership: never stop learning. more than twice as many champi- Wooden shared this viewpoint. Learning keeps us from com- onships as the next best team at For his first 16 years at UCLA, his placency and stagnation; it also the time. players practiced in a gym with encourages humility. None of It’s off the court, however, the gymnastics and wrestling these traits breeds a perfect where Wooden’s legend resonates squads; every day Wooden swept leader, but they surely produce a the most. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a and mopped the floor because of better one than a know-it-all-al- three-time NCAA Most Outstand- the dust the other teams stirred ready attitude. ing Player, said it best: “The lead- up. I can’t believe that John Wood- ership lessons John taught me en is now 92. At an age when I’d LESSON NO. 3: Commit yourself. be happy just to be alive, he’s seemed corny when I first heard Success is a marathon, not a them. By the time I graduated, writing, speaking, and still learn- sprint. In consequence, you must they began to make a little more ing about leadership. commit yourself to a long, hard sense. But it was only later, years journey. As salesman Joe Girard If the Wizard of Westwood still after I left UCLA, that they had wrote, “the elevator to success is has a few things to discover about the greatest effect on my life.” out of order. You’ll have to use this topic, I’m sure I haven’t even That’s as it should be because, the stairs ... one step at a time.” scratched the surface. Coach in my opinion, Wooden coached Without perseverance and Wooden may say he’s just “a more for life than for basketball. commitment, you’ll stop short of common man who’s true to his While all of Wooden’s wisdom ultimate leadership success. beliefs,” but in reality, he’s an un- would fill several books, there are Consider Wooden’s trajectory common example of unequaled five leadership lessons we can to a national victory. Although he leadership. take off the court for immediate began coaching at UCLA in 1948, — Chris Nelson is president of the application. his first national championship Mixtec Group, a Pasadena, Calif.- LESSON NO. 1: Define success. came only in 1960. That’s 13 sea- based retained executive-search and Wooden defined success by sons of hard work, day in, week consulting firm specializing in pro- neither championships earned, out, year after year. How much duce. E-mail him at would Wooden have missed by email@example.com. games won, nor points scored. Instead, disregarding external in- quitting before his 13th season? dicators, he described success as Or, as a more recent example, the inner peace of mind gained consider the case of Jim Boeheim. from knowing you’ve done your He joined the Syracuse University best. coaching staff in 1969, but it was Have you defined success? only in 2003 that his team won Take a moment to pinpoint what the NCAA basketball champi- victory means to you. Check that onship. The lesson is clear: be pa- the prize you’re chasing is one tient on the road to success.
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