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Wooden's tips for courting success

SMALL BUSINESS

The esteemed coach shares his ideas on how business owners can become better leaders.

June 02, 2008|Jerry Hirsch | Times Staff Writer

John Wooden is generally regarded as the nation's greatest basketball coach. His UCLA teams during the 1960s and 1970s won 10 NCAA men's basketball national championships and set records for consecutive victories. But since retiring in 1975, the 97-year-old coach has gained fame as a philosopher and motivator.

His "Pyramid of Success" guide to life is revered by former players and business leaders for its insight on how to help individuals to grow and how to manage organizations.

He is the inspiration for the UCLA Anderson School of Management's John Wooden Global Leadership Award, which will be given annually to a business executive who reflects the coach's leadership values.

The first recipient of the award, handed out last week, was Starbucks Corp. Chief Executive Howard Schultz.

Wooden sat down with The Times and offered up 10 tips -- one for each of the NCAA basketball championships his players won at UCLA -- for how business owners can become better leaders.

1. Listen. One thing that is often overlooked in leadership is the ability to listen. Listening is so important to those under your supervision.

2. Care. Another very important part of leadership is to make those under your supervision feel that you care for them -- not just for the job they are doing for you, but you really care for them personally. You just can't tell them you do that, you have to show it.

While some roles aren't as big or in the forefront as others, they are still very important. I used to use this analogy: It is like having a powerful car. Now the engine, like an Alcindor [now called Kareem Abdul-Jabbar], who played for me, that's powerful. Here's another fellow who is just a wheel. And there is another fellow who is just a nut that holds the wheel on. You have to have them all. You must make every person feel that they are needed.

3. Recognize. When I was teaching in high school in basketball, for example, [I taught that] my players must never score without thanking someone. Don't run over and shake their hand but look at them and give them a little sign or something of appreciation. Everybody likes to have a pat on the back.

4. Prepare. [Managers should be aware of] preparation for whatever their job is, little or big, preparation is so important. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. You must not put things off.

5. Be industrious. Nothing can be accomplished without work. You've got to work hard. If you are looking for the short cut, if you are looking for the easy way, if you are looking for the trick to get things done, you might get them done. But you are not adding strength, you are not building.

6. Have enthusiasm. If you don't enjoy what you are doing you are not going to be able to give it the industriousness that you should have. You must have that to inspire others to do their best.

7. Be patient. Good things take time. And that's the way it should be. We don't want it that way but that's the way it is. I think that is a very important thing that a leader must get across to those under his supervision.

8. Have confidence. You must believe in yourself. If you don't have confidence in yourself you can't expect those under your supervision to act with much confidence.

9. Don't fear failure. Have initiative but don't be afraid of failure. We are all going to fail at times because we are all imperfect. When I had assistants, I always wanted them never to be afraid to make a suggestion. We don't know a thing we don't learn from somebody else in one way or another. If you do agree [with their suggestion] and use it and it works, be sure that they are the one that gets the credit, not you. Now if it doesn't work, you take the blame because you made that decision to use it.

10. Win respect. You have to have the respect of those under your supervision. You can't obtain that respect unless you are honest with them and they can depend upon you. Don't try to sell them a bill of goods or you will lose all respect.

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jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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On latimes.com

Wooden shares

To view a video of the former UCLA coach discussing his leadership tips, go to

latimes.com/johnwooden.

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