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15 Leadership Lessons from Coach John Wooden

Leadership

15 Leadership Lessons from Coach John Wooden image Sports can teach some of life’s greatest lessons. Lessons like how to be a good teammate, how to respond in the face of adversity, and how to prepare for success over a long season. Arguably one of the greatest teachers of these life lessons was Coach John Wooden.

During Coach Wooden’s tenure as the head coach of the UCLA men’s basketball team, the team won 10 NCAA national championships, an unprecedented feat. In his book, Wooden, John shares life lessons from observations on and off the court.

The wisdom in Wooden’s words is not limited to the basketball court; they can be applied to all areas of life – especially business.  Although modes of communication change, the simple truths of success remain intact.

Wooden Quote: “Apply yourself everyday to just becoming a little bit better.”

Marcus Sheridan, author of The Sales Lion blog and Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy, exemplifies this principle. Marcus’ journey to becoming a marketing author and speaker is unique.

He started out selling pools, but everything changed for Marcus and River Pools when he started to apply the inbound marketing methodology. The hard work that Marcus invested into the River Pools online marketing tactics transformed their business into one of the largest pool companies of its kind in the world.

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Today, Marcus is a successful speaker, consultant, Hubspot partner, and soon-to-be author because of his relentless commitment to improvement over time. Marcus’ personality and passion really come through on his podcasts, which are usually recorded in his basement late at night!

Wooden Quote:“Without proper self-evaluation, failure is inevitable.” 

Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist at Hubspot and author of The Science of Marketing, loves to dig into numbers. He provides advice for marketers, backed with statistics on everything from the best words to use on your landing page to the best time to send a tweet.

Learning from Dan’s data can give you an edge in the social space. Consider taking time each month to evaluate which of your methods are working and which aren’t working. An honest self-evaluation based on solid numbers could help you take your game to the next level.

Wooden Quote: “Mix idealism with realism and add hard work.”

Glen from ViperChill showcases this attitude in the way he approaches his businesses. Glen sets goals each month for himself and for his businesses. When you read his blog posts you can see that Glen isn’t afraid to put in the work that is required for success.

Check out this quote of his Facebook page: “On the last day of the month (I did this yesterday), I always go somewhere quiet on my own to plan what I want to achieve in the next month. So easy for months (and years) to slip by with no progress if you don’t have clear goals.”

By clearly defining what he wants to accomplish each month, Glen is able to better decide how he is going to spend his time. Then he gets to work.

Wooden Quote: “You can make mistakes, but you’re not a failure until you start blaming others for those mistakes.”

Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger, had a problem. They had accidently emailed over 1 million people with an email that was only meant for a few thousand. People started unsubscribing from their lists and sending complaint emails accusing them of email spamming.

Thinking quickly, they drafted an email of explanation and apology to their users. This quick and honest response probably did more in the end to improve their relationship with the readers who decided to stick around.

Wooden Quote: “While you can’t control what happens to you, you can control how you react.”

Gary Vaynerchuck, author of Crush It! and The Thank You Economy, is a passionate guy. When you watch his video blogs, you find that out pretty quickly.

One thing that makes him stand out from the rest is his desire to get to know real people. When someone leaves a negative review on Amazon, he responds by asking the reviewer to talk more about their experience. This is a great example for all of us.

Wooden Quote: “People want to believe you are sincerely interested in them as person. Not just for what they can do for you.”

Mark Schaefer, author of The Tao of TwitterReturn on Influence, and Born to Blog, is an internationally recognized speaker and marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies. This level of success could be enough to go to someone’s head, but not Mark.

He demonstrates his sincere interest in people through the way he communicates on Twitter, the way he writes on his blog {grow}, and most importantly the way he interacts with people in real life. Social media channels provide companies with an opportunity to engage.

Mark showcases this brilliantly. He provides an example to all the companies that he consults with as well as the rest of the marketing world that, at the end of the day, you’re connecting with real people.

Wooden Quote: “When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur.”

Brian Moran was working a 9-5 job and trying to build an online baseball training business on the side. After months of trial and error with blogging, SEO, and Google AdWords, Brian finally found something that worked for his business: a Facebook fan page. Soon, Brian had built up a following of over 10,000 Facebook fans.

Next, he decided to start Get 10,000 Fans, a business dedicated to sharing his proven formula for converting Facebook fans to paying customers. Today, Get 10,000 Fans is one of the largest Facebook marketing brands on the Internet.

Committed to always improving, Brian and his team are building on their past success with a new project called 5 Minute Marketing. Just think what would have happened if Brian got discouraged and quit during those lonely nights building his baseball business.

Wooden Quote: “We must be challenged to improve, and adversity is the challenger.”

Pat Flynn is a guy that is hard not to like. His transparent and honest approach to teaching passive income techniques is the cornerstone of his personality and his brand. One of the essential elements in his “be everywhere” strategy is the Smart Passive Income podcast.

If you were to listen to just one of his podcast episodes, you may get the impression that Pat is a laid back guy who is really good at asking interview questions. But when you learn his story and look at the success he has experienced in a relatively short amount of time, you realize that Pat is a guy who has risen against incredible odds.

In his recent book, Let Go, Pat shares his journey after being laid off from a job he loved. His journey is marked by adversity, but his passion for personal improvement and business growth is unmistakable. Pat’s story is an incredible example and encouragement to anyone who has a desire to rise above their current circumstances and put in the necessary work for success.

Wooden Quote: “When the opportunity arises, it is too late to prepare.”

During the power outage during Super Bowl XLVII, people were all over Twitter telling jokes and asking questions about when the lights would come back on. The smart marketing team at Oreo recognized that there was an opportunity to jump into the conversation.

They put together a great image and sent the tweet. They ended up with over 16,000 retweets and a massive amount of new followers. This didn’t happen by accident. Oreo was able to take advantage of the opportunity because they had put in the necessary work to built a great team.

Wooden Quote: “Focus all your effort on what is in your power to control.”

Lewis Howes was attempting to make a career in professional football when a career ending injury brought his dreams to a halt. In a time when a lot of people would have just quit, Lewis focused on what he could control.

During his time in recovery, Lewis set himself to becoming an expert on the subject of LinkedIn networking. Marked by his trademark passion, Lewis got to work building his personal brand online and offline.

Today, Lewis is considered a thought leader in sports networking and webinar marketing and is a great example of the role passion plays when facing a challenging situation.

Wooden Quote: “A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.”

Scott Monty, the Head of Social Media for Ford Motor Company, epitomizes this philosophy. Scott is widely viewed as a thought leader among thought leaders in the social space. His philosophy of “letting the customer tell your story” has been at the forefront of Ford’s social media strategy.

“Dialogue with people in a way they can understand, not corporate-speak,” Monty said. With over 90,000 followers on Twitter and through his social media blog and Baker Street Blog, Scott follows his own advice and provides a great example to all of us.

Wooden Quote: “Progress comes slowly but steadily if you are patient and prepare diligently.”

Jason Fried and David Hansson are the founders of 37signals, a software company that has changed the way the world works. Fried and Hansson started off as a design agency that was seeking a collaborative project management solution that could manage their international team. When they couldn’t find anything that fit their needs, they simply designed their own.

37signals has pioneered a new way to work through products like Basecamp and Highrise. They have pledged and proven to keep their products simple, not being afraid to lose customers who have “out grown” their solution.

As their company continued to grow, they stuck to their principle of “do it yourself first” and only “hire when it hurts.” The 37signal philosophy is captured in their New York times bestseller Rework.

Wooden Quote: “Balance means keeping things in proper perspective.”

Anne Deeter Gallaher, CEO of Deeter Gallaher Group and co-author of Women in High Gear, is an on-ramper who has never lets the odds stacked against her dictate her future. Anne was a stay-at-home mother of three before venturing into the world of entrepreneurship.

Anne says “My lens was never ‘Should I stay home?,’ but ‘How can I stay home?’” she continues “My experiences at home as CEO of family and church / school volunteer prepared me for the business world in many ways. Have you ever tried to get three, very energetic young boys to bed on time? That demands serious negotiating skills – and a healthy dose of patience and clear communications!”

Anne’s ability to keep the larger picture in prospective has helped her to build a thriving public relations and marketing agency that services clients across a wide range of industries in both Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Wooden Quote: “Act quickly, but don’t hurry.”

FedEx displayed for us all how to exemplify this truth in reaction to a YouTube video of one of their deliverymen throwing a brand new computer monitor over a fence. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out here.

In a situation that would have many people scrambling and pulling their hair out, FedEx took to their Twitter account. They calmly reassured people that they take great pride in the quality of their service and that this type of behavior from on of their employees.

Wooden Quote: “If you spend too much time learning the tricks of the trade, you may not learn the trade.”

This is a principle that speaks to the heart of the lean startup movement. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, has pioneered the idea of a minimal viable product. You can’t sit back and prepare forever, it is better to launch and learn than to not launch at all!

There is so much awesome content out there! It can be tempting to spend all of ones time “learning up” and preparing to do something great. One trait that unites all of the great business leaders is their willingness to take action. Each example, in their own way, took an idea and put it into action.

These are just 15 examples in a world full of enspiring stories. Now it is your turn. Who insipires you to get better and grow your business?

Comments on this Article: 4

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  1. It was really a great list for building a positivity in our self Andrew. It is absolutely inspiring that gives nourishment straight trough to our character as a marketer. But what makes me admire is the #4 quote you have. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Thanks, Oliver! Perseverance is something that marks all of these folks. As marketers, it can be easy to get intimidated by what others are doing and start to fear failure. I really recommend Wooden’s whole book, it is a gold mine of great insight! Thanks for the comment and for taking the time to read the post!

  2. Thank you for sharing this article and the enrichment of the ancient truths with appealing examples.
    And you are absolutely right when you say that although modes of communication change, the simple truths of success remain intact. And that makes it within reach for everybody who wants to be successful, whether in business or in life.
    It is who you must become as a person, so it is merely about character, and how you act on your circumstances given the cards you have. It is never about luck, but about the choices and decisions you make and how you act on this in a consistent and persistent way.
    The beauty of this is that we have examples of people who are successful in (certain aspects of) life all around us.

  3. Very well said, Michael! I love the quote from Rocky where he tells his son that the important thing in life is not how many times you get hit, but how many times you get hit and keep fighting! Thanks for sharing your comment and taking the time to read the post!

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