Wooden’s Leadership Legacy Still Inspires

John Wooden coached college basketball 40 years ago. He died in 2010 just prior to his 100th birthday.

Though he coached long ago, he is still revered as a leadership genius. Coaches still refer to him. I came across two examples this week.

Pete Carroll coaches the NFL Seattle Seahawks. He’s won at all levels. He’s got championship rings. This year he’s returning with his team after losing the Super Bowl last year on the last play of the game – an ill-fated intercepted pass in the end zone. Most folks thought they should have tried scoring on the run.

Carroll described how Wooden inspired him. After getting fired from two early head coaching jobs, Carroll read a book about Wooden that noted that while no one has won more NCAA basketball championships than him, it was 18 years before he won his first.

In other words, the path to greatness was a long one. It was full of trial and error, setbacks and losses.

Carroll was inspired to learn that his early results could be a foundation for future success. He was motivated to double his efforts to improve. It bore fruit.

Mike Matheny is the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a 13 year professional career and has lead his team to the playoffs each of the first three seasons he has managed.

He was in kindergarten when Wooden retired. Yet, in The Matheny Manifesto, his book about leadership and coaching kids and adults, it’s Wooden he cites as a profound influence.

He cites Wooden’s definition of success which was honed through a lifetime of experience: “Success is a peace of mind, which is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

Matheny notes it’s not trophies, but effort that matters. It’s not results alone that matters, but more like whether the results achieved matches up to potential.

Wooden was the first coach that turned my head. I read his book in ninth grade and kept it on my bookshelf until ten years ago when I gave it to someone who wanted to learn more about leadership.

The current references about his legacy made me nostalgic. May all of our efforts help us to our full potential.

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