Cornerstones of Leadership

Many of us attending World Campus are doing so because we aspire to be leaders of our respective fields; with that, I am going to share one of my sources for leadership-based inspiration—one of the foremost books in the field. Between the summer and fall semesters of 2012, I read the life-altering book entitled Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization, written by John R. Wooden—legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball program.

If you are unaware of some of his accolades, in 1999 Sports Illustrated recognized Coach Wooden as the best coach of the twentieth century in any sport at any level (sorry JoePa) according to his website.

In addition to his unrivaled accomplishments on the court—Coach Wooden won ten national championships, including seven consecutive from 1967 through1973—he was also a tremendous humanitarian. In 2003, he achieved the highest civil honor that can be attained by an American in receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.

Coach Wooden's "Pyramid of Success." Please click the image for a link to a printable (and more legible) PDF.
Coach Wooden's "Pyramid of Success." Please click the image for a link to a printable (and more legible) PDF.

I could quite easily write a book on his accomplishments and leadership philosophies, but instead I would like to discuss the cornerstones of his “Pyramid of Success.”

Wooden writes that industriousness and enthusiasm are key aspects to success, and, he compares these skills to the strong foundational cornerstones of the great Egyptian pyramids and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In order to graduate to the next level of the pyramid or level in Maslow’s hierarchy, we must first master the first.

In speaking of enthusiasm, Wooden states “your energy and enjoyment, drive and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others.”

Business students may equate this to establishing or contributing to an organizational culture, and rightly think that this can work both ways—whether we lack enthusiasm or exhibit strong enthusiasm, those that look for us to lead are going to follow. This is evident in all of our lives, and I see it with my 4-year-old as she mimics my enthusiasm the same way we all have the power to set the tone for our associates in the workplace, at school, or in any aspect of our lives.

As far as industriousness goes, you may have heard the expression “hard work is contagious,” and Wooden would concur with this. He references his time spent growing up on a farm in rural Indiana, and how he often woke up before sunrise to tend to cattle, among other things. As he put it, “there is no trick, no easy way.”

Quite simply, most successful people work harder than others and are willing to make sacrifices in knowing that it will pay off in the end. Wooden quotes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow within his book:

“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.”

Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is well-regarded among leadership experts, and has been the focus of many leadership courses and seminars. Although he came up with the concept over 50 years ago, Wooden constantly refined his pyramid for the betterment of others, in hopes that those who were open to suggestion could learn the valuable lessons he did much more expeditiously.

I encourage anyone attempting to hone their leadership skills to read his book. Meanwhile, I leave you with one quote that has inspired me:

“Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable” – Coach Wooden