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"Ultimately, I wanted the Pyramid's 15 building blocks to define me as a leader."
Creating a written definition of success was a necessary exercise when I started out because many parents came to me to protest classroom grades or the roles I had assigned their sons on a Dayton baseball or basketball team (the bench, most often).
I was increasingly upset, disgusted at times, to hear parents howl about their child's grade or role on the team when I knew it was often the best the youngster could do. It was unfair to the child and, in fact, counterproductive. How would you feel having worked hard, studied diligently, and paid attention in class—done your best—only to be called a loser? Most individuals, young or old, would simply quit trying. I did not want those under my supervision to ever quit trying.
As a coach I also recognized that I'd be judged to be successful or not with a similar grading system—the percentage method—without regard to circumstance, situation, or anything else. This, as I have described, was exactly what happened in 1959–1960.
Had I helped those under my supervision come as close as possible to reaching their potential, doing their best? Had I done my best? These questions were not asked, even though they are the most relevant.
The behavior of those parents in Dayton prompted me to define, declare, and write down a fair and productive measurement of success—a grading system for all that truly does produce the best of which individuals are capable.
DIRECTIONS TO THE DESTINATION
Success—peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did the best of which you are capable—became the stated objective or destination for those I was teaching and coaching. A destination is meaningless, however, without directions on how to get there.
How do you achieve success? In 1933 I didn't have the answer. Moreover, I knew that just having the answer was insufficient. A method of instruction would be needed to help me teach the qualities I deemed necessary for success.
Consequently, I began searching for a teaching tool that was tangible—something you could see, study, and follow as clearly as a map. Those things we can see tend to be more meaningful and memorable than objects we just hear about.
Glenn Curtis, my high school basketball coach at Martinsville, Indiana, was an exceptional motivator who used everything from poetry to pep talks to stimulate his players. Occasionally, he would even produce an old cardboard poster on which he had drawn a ladder with five or six rungs.
Each rung represented some important tip he wanted members of the Martinsville High School basketball team, the Artesians, to keep in mind—footwork, for example, or hustle. At the top of his ladder, of course, was success as he and most others saw it, namely, beating another team.
Well, the ladder idea got me to thinking. It was a good start, but I wanted something more comprehensive and illustrative. And, of course, my definition of success differed greatly from Coach Curtis's.
I remembered reading about the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt while I was a student at Purdue. It was the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Built with blocks of red granite and pure limestone, some weighing up to 60 tons, the Great Pyramid was constructed on a massive foundation whose huge cornerstones were the biggest and most important of the whole structure.
Additional blocks, each carved with a specific purpose and position in mind, were then painstakingly ramped and hoisted into place, creating successive tiers—each one supported by what had come before.
There was a center, or heart, to the Great Pyramid, which then rose to an apex that towered 481 feet over the sands of the desert. For 4,300 years it remained the tallest structure on Earth. And despite its size, the Great Pyramid was built with such precision that, when it was completed after decades of labor, you couldn't slide a single playing card between its huge blocks of granite and limestone. Even in the twenty-first century it is considered one of the sturdiest and best-planned structures ever built. And I am not alone in this thinking. The great management writer and analyst Peter Drucker, when asked who were the greatest managers of all time, answered, "The builders of the great Pyramids."
An Egyptian proverb says, "Man fears time, but time fears the Pyramids." The Great Pyramid of Giza was built to last—and it did. The symbolism of all this effort seemed very practical to me.
THE REQUISITES OF SUCCESS
I soon adopted the pyramid structure as my teaching tool. At first, I didn't know how many "blocks" it would contain, what the blocks would consist of, or in what order they would be positioned. All I knew was that success would be found at the apex and that each block leading to the top would represent a personal quality necessary for getting there. The Pyramid's blocks and tiers would be my specific directions on how those under my supervision could achieve success by realizing their own potential, both individually and as part of a team.
Along the way, I came to see that it would also provide the directions for my own coaching—a leadership guidebook—offering a code of conduct for those given the privilege of leading others into the competitive arena.
However, first I faced the task of determining what individual characteristics were required to reach the top. I took this responsibility seriously, and during the winter of my first year as a teacher and coach began reflecting on what the answer was. What precisely did it take to become a success?
For many years afterward, I evaluated and then carefully selected the values necessary for success, as I defined it, as well as the location each would occupy in the structure. After much reflection, trial and error, and some soul searching, I chose 15 fundamental values as blocks for my Pyramid of Success. I believe they are prerequisites for a leader and an organization whose goal is to perform at the highest level of which they are capable.
I completed the Pyramid of Success shortly before leaving Indiana State Teachers College in Terre Haute for California and UCLA. Subsequently, as the new 37-year-old head basketball coach of the Bruins I began each season by introducing my definition of success and the Pyramid to arriving student-athletes—handing out mimeographed copies and reviewing it with them. A large poster of the Pyramid hung behind my desk in the office at Kerckhoff Hall.
YOUR OWN EXAMPLE COUNTS MOST
Most of all I attempted to demonstrate in my behavior—on and off the court—those qualities I hold so dear, the values within the Pyramid.
I believe there is no more powerful leadership tool than your own personal example. In almost every way the team ultimately becomes a reflection of their leader. For me, I wanted that reflection to be mirrored in the Pyramid of Success. I attempted to teach it mainly by my own example.
Was my Pyramid the reason UCLA won championships? No, there were many reasons. However, I believe the Pyramid played a very important part, just as it played a role in that 1959—1960 season, when we achieved success while losing almost as many games as we won.
The ultimate role of the Pyramid was not to produce championships; championships were a by-product. Rather, it provided directions for reaching one's own ultimate level of excellence as a part of a team or as leader of the team. The Pyramid didn't guarantee that UCLA would outscore an opponent, only that our opponent would face individuals—united as a team—who were fully prepared to battle hard and compete at their highest level. The score would take care of itself.
In some years that produced the great "surprise" of a 14–12 record while in other years it produced a national championship. In all years, except 1973–1974, it produced UCLA teams that knew what was required to achieve success and then went out and did it. Beyond the Xs and Os of basketball, I wanted the blocks of the Pyramid to define us as a team. I also hoped it would define me as a leader.
Let me share those 15 personal qualities I selected and carefully positioned in the Pyramid of Success. The blocks are not made of red granite or pure limestone but of material much stronger and more durable—material available to you and your team when you look hard enough within yourself and ask those with whom you work to do the same.
A structure is only as strong as its foundation; mine began with two cornerstones that were chosen early in my search. There is no success without them.
I was raised on a small farm where a healthy mule was considered a modern convenience. So I discovered quickly that nothing gets done if you stay in bed. You must rise early and work late. It became one of the first lessons my brothers and I learned: There is no trick, no easy way to accomplish the difficult task, no substitute for old-fashioned work. Without it crops aren't planted, corn won't grow, hay isn't harvested. You perish.
"The heights by great men reached and kept, Were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
For the Wooden family, hard work was as common as dirt—and dirt is common on a farm. Thus, the first block I chose for the Pyramid of Success—a cornerstone of the foundation—was self-evident: hard work. I called it Industriousness, because "work" as performed by most people isn't real work; rather, it's going through the motions, putting in time, enduring boredom.
Many will complain about a hard day at the office when, in fact, they didn't lift a finger or think a thought. That's not work. I had something else in mind, the kind of work in which you are fully engaged, totally focused, and completely absorbed. There is no clock watching and no punching in and out. Industriousness, for me, means true work.
I also knew intuitively that for Industriousness to occur, an equally important quality is required.
Work without joy is drudgery. Drudgery does not produce champions, nor does it produce great organizations. You will not reach the top—success—if you and those you lead are wearily trudging along, waiting for the workday to end so you can move on to something you'd rather do.
"Joy makes the longest journey too short."
As a leader, you must be filled with energy and eagerness, joy and love for what you do. If you lack Enthusiasm for your job, you cannot perform to the best of your ability. Success is unattainable without Enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm was quickly chosen as the second cornerstone in the Pyramid's foundation because it transforms work into Industriousness and catapults you to most productive heights.
Your Enthusiasm does the same for those you lead. The energy and enjoyment, drive and dedication you exude stimulate the team. Enthusiasm must be real, not phony. False enthusiasm is common and easily detected. If you are faking it, posing and pretending, those under your supervision will spot it and do likewise.
Enthusiasm comes from within and is expressed in different ways. It is not necessarily jumping up and down and making a lot of noise. My high school coach, Glenn Curtis, was very demonstrative in expressing his Enthusiasm. Ward "Piggy" Lambert, my great coach at Purdue, had a very controlled, intense manner. Both men, however, had genuine enthusiasm, and those they supervised were the beneficiaries of this excitement for the game.
When they are joined together, Industriousness and Enthusiasm become the driving force, the engine that powers all subsequent blocks of the Pyramid. To my knowledge, the most effective leaders have these qualities in full measure. Take Jack Welch, for example, the former CEO of General Electric and the man declared "Manager of the Century" by Fortune magazine. Mr. Welch transformed the century-old corporation into one of the biggest and most valuable in the world. Importantly, Enthusiasm was at the center of the leadership assets he possessed. Jack Welch loved his job—not liked it, loved it. His Enthusiasm was infectious, and it ignited the spirit and Enthusiasm of those he worked with.
I tried to have the same effect on the people I led.
These two qualities, Industriousness and Enthusiasm, were selected soon after I had chosen the Pyramid structure as my teaching tool. While other blocks were selected and discarded or moved to other locations within the Pyramid over the next 14 years, I never considered changing the cornerstone locations for Industriousness and Enthusiasm.
INDUSTRIOUSNESS AND ENTHUSIASM ARE THE TWIN CORNERSTONES OF SUCCESS
Each of the foundation's cornerstones, by itself, is a force of considerable magnitude. Combined, Industriousness and Enthusiasm create an irreplaceable component of great leadership. Hard work and enthusiasm are contagious. A leader who exhibits them will find the organization does too.
You will perish without hard work, without Industriousness. Industriousness is not possible without Enthusiasm. Success is unattainable without both of them.
COMPLETING THE LEADERSHIP FOUNDATION
Between the cornerstones of Industriousness and Enthusiasm I placed three blocks that involve working with others: Friendship, Loyalty, and Cooperation. Industriousness and Enthusiasm can be realized independently, alone, by yourself. But most of what we do in life, especially sports and business, involves others.
The three qualities I chose to place between the cornerstones to complete the Pyramid's foundation involve positive interaction with people—so necessary for successful leadership.
You may question the role of friendship in the context of leadership. Is it wise for a leader to become friends with those under his supervision? Will Friendship hinder correct decision making when hard choices are called for?
"To Make a Friend, Be a Friend."
I believe there are various kinds and degrees of Friendship based on a wide range of appreciations. We may have an acquaintance with whom we are friendly because of a shared interest in politics or sports; another whose humor we enjoy; some may be golfing, bowling, or fishing buddies; perhaps we have an old friend from high school whom we haven't seen in 20 years. All are friends in different and good ways—but not in the way I mean Friendship.
The two qualities of Friendship so important for a leader to possess and instill in team members are respect and camaraderie. To me these are the most noteworthy characteristics of true Friendship as it pertains to leadership.
Camaraderie is a spirit of goodwill that exists between individuals and members of a group—comrades-in-arms. Think of how much you'll give when asked to do so by someone you respect and with whom you share camaraderie. You'll give plenty—everything you've got. Those under your leadership will do the same if you show them this part of yourself.
Contrast that situation with a leader who lacks camaraderie and respect for and from those in the organization. Which leader will get the most out of the team? The difference is immense.
Thus, I sought and valued these two particular qualities of Friendship in my relationship with individuals on the team. I did not seek their affection nor wish to be "buddies." Mutual respect and camaraderie strengthen your team. Affection, in fact, may weaken it by causing you to play favorites.
I tried extremely hard not to have favorites, even though there were many players over the years for whom I did have great affection. I did not want my personal feelings—liking a person or not—to be apparent, to give the appearance of favoring one over another. I was not always successful in my endeavor.
John Ecker, a player I liked perhaps as much as any I ever coached, told me years later he thought I disliked him while he was a member of our team. I was unhappy to hear this information; nevertheless, I took comfort in knowing that I'd not treated him as a favorite even though he was one.
Although I went overboard perhaps in attempting to avoid the appearance of favoritism in his case, this is preferable to being perceived as a leader who gives special treatment to his buddies. Such a perception can be very destructive.
Excerpted from WOODEN ON LEADERSHIP by John Wooden Steve Jamison Copyright © 2009 by Sharon Naylor. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|Prologue : the joys of my journey|
|1||The pyramid of success||16|
|2||The pyramid's second tier||31|
|3||The heart of the pyramid||41|
|4||Good values attract good people||61|
|5||Use the most powerful four-letter word||80|
|6||Call yourself a teacher||92|
|7||Emotion is your enemy||107|
|8||It takes 10 hands to score a basket||117|
|9||Little things make big things happen||135|
|10||Make each day your masterpiece||153|
|11||The carrot is mightier than a stick||165|
|12||Make greatness attainable by all||178|
|13||Seek significant change||192|
|14||Don't look at the scoreboard||209|
|15||Adversity is your asset||219|
|Epilogue : some things don't change||289|