John Wooden’s Leadership

I have always admired John Wooden, the legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team for 27 seasons. During that time he won an astonishing 10 national titles in 12 years and at one point 88 consecutive games. These are feats that have since not and probably never will be matched. With so much success for a sustained period of time, one would have to assume that Wooden possessed a unique ability to lead his team to be the best year in and year out, and often with a different group of players. For someone who did not know Wooden, they might assume that he was some sort of charismatic leader who focused on winning at all costs. Hardly. His former players recalled that he never stress the importance of winning, but rather he focused on executing fundamentals consistently (Edelhauser, 2007).

Coach Wooden stressed his “Pyramid of Success”, which focused on implementing 25 behaviors to create and enhance character. Those that knew him observed his sincerity, humility, transparency, and care for the welfare of others (Riggio, 2010). Formers players to this day still talk about the personal impact he’s had on their lives and often recall the lessons that he taught them. Until his death last year at age 99, many of these players still called him and had breakfast with him on a regular basis (Edelhauser, 2007). This is a leader who had a lasting impact, and he did so by setting an example for others to follow and humbly going about his business with a disciplined and focused approach, never to draw attention to himself.

I would have greatly enjoyed an opportunity to meet Coach Wooden just to hear stories from him and soak up some of his wisdom. Someone who has had that much impact on others would be a leader worth listening to, and I would have asked him a lot of questions about being a better person and leader. Even though he is gone now, his lessons still live on for all of us to learn from.

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” –John Wooden


Edelhauser, K. (2007, March). John Wooden’s pyramid still standing. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from

Riggio, R. E. (2010, June 5). The leadership of John Wooden [Web log post]. Retrieved from

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