The Pyramid of Success

I recently finished reading Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison.

In this book, coach John Wooden – one of the most successful basketball coaches of all times – shares with his readers the leadership framework that he has developed and used through the years. The books is divided intro three sections, the first presents and explains John’s foundation of leadership, the pyramid of success. The framework, illustrated below, is composed of a number of qualities that build on each other and serve as reinforcement to achieve “competitive greatness”. These include as a first tier: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm. The second tier, consists of self-control, alertness, initiative, and intentness. The third tier: condition, skill, and team spirit. The fourth tier: poise and confidence. Finally at the top of the pyramid, the culmination: competitive greatness.

In the second section, John shares a number of personal lessons in leadership, that tie into the framework and help bring it to life. These include: Good values attract good people, call yourself a teacher, and seek significant change, to name a few. The last section is composed of extracts from John’s personal notebook and ensuing lessons.

What sets Coach Wooden’s philosophy and books apart is best highlighted in the book’s preface: “Dr. Albert Einstein and Coach Wooden share a similar brilliance; specifically, both mastered the complicated art of keeping it simple. ” In addition, the numerous stories shared, help the reader understand how to apply the framework and the impact it can have.

I highly recommend John’s books to anyone looking at developing their personal leadership skills, at all levels.

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “The joy and great satisfaction I derived from leadership – working with and teaching others, helping them reach their full potential in contributing to the team’s common goals – ultimately surpassed outscoring an opponent, the standings, even championships.”

2- “I believe leadership itself is largely learned…Whatever coaching and leadership skills I possess were learned through listening, observation, study, then trial and error along the way.”

3- “It’s like character and reputation. Reputation is what others perceive you as being, and their opinion may be right or wrong. Character, however, is what you really are, and nobody truly knows that but you. But you are what matters most.”

4- “Rules to lead by…Before you can lead others, you must be able to lead yourself…Don’t hastily replace the old fashioned with the new fangled…Learn to master the four P’s (planning, preparation, practice, and performance…Write down the tasks, initiatives, and actions that each member of your team needs to do to perform at his or her peak level.”

5- “…Poise can be a most elusive quality in challenging times…Poise means holding fast to your beliefs and acting in accordance with them, regardless of how bad or good the situation may be. Poise means avoiding pose or pretense, comparing yourself to others, and acting like someone you’re not. Poise means having a brave heart in all circumstances.”

6- “Good values are like a magnet – they attract good people.”

7- “A good leader creates belief – in the leader’s philosophy, in the organization  in the mission. Creating belief is difficult to do where a vacuum of values exists, where the only thing that matters is the end result, whether it’s beating the competition on the court or increasing the profit margins in the books.”

8- “…and while all these will make you a good leader, they will not make you a great leader. For that, one additional quality – perhaps the most important of all – is necessary. Although it may sound out of place in the rough-and-tumble context of sports or corporate competition, I believe you must have love in your heart for the people under your leadership…love is so important because it moves you to do the right things in all areas of life, including leadership.”

9- “The coach must never forget that he is, first of all, a teacher. He must come (be present), see (diagnose), and conquer (correct). He must continuously be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and everything that maybe helpful to him. As has been said, he must remember, “Others, too, have brains.”

10- “In business and other organizations, the “ball” that must be shared is knowledge, experience, information, contacts, new ideas, and much more. All these things must be freely exchanged with others throughout the organization if it is going to succeed – prevail – in these extremely competitive times.”

11- “While the specifics may be small, it is no small task. Success, not the devil, is in the details.”

12- “I came to the conclusion that when choosing between the carrot and the stick as a motivational tool, the well chosen carrot was almost always more powerful and longer lasting than the stick. In fact, simply withholding a properly selected carrot can become a most forceful punishment and powerful motivator. Its denial creates desire; the carrot becomes a stick.”

13- “Make it clear to all that “promotions” depend on mastery of current roles and assignments. Never discourage ambition, but do let people know that they need to keep their eye on the ball in their current jobs. Their time may come, but only if they exercise patience and demonstrate continuous improvement.”

14- “Getting off to a good start is important. It sets the tone for your team in many ways – expectations, values, attitude, behavior, rules, and much more. This is especially true with individuals who are new to your organization, but it also applies to the others under your leadership who may need a reminder from time to time of how you expect things to be done.”


Omar Halabieh

Pyramid of Success

Pyramid of Success


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