Legendary basketball coach John Wooden worked with Steve Jamison on “Wooden on Leadership,” a well received book outlining his perspective and philosophy on life and leadership.

I enjoyed the book very much. I’ve included below several solid quotes from Wooden, his father, and men who coached or played basketball under his leadership. Not to be missed is the fact that these leadership quotes are also quotes about being a decent human being.

One of the best things about the book is explained in this video.

One of the Best Things about Wooden on Leadership

Leadership Quotes from John Wooden

“Don’t worry about whether you’re better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become. You have control over that; the other you don’t.” (Wooden’s father)

“The ultimate reward is in the competitive process itself, rather than some subsequent gain or glory brought about by winning.”

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

“Never lie; never cheat; never steal. Don’t whine; don’t complain; don’t make excuses.” (Wooden’s father)

“We are what we repeatedly do.” (Aristotle)

“Who you are inside – what you believe – is important, but what you do means more, much more.”

“Before telling someone what to do you must teach him how to do it.”

“Emotionalism destroys consistency.”

“Good judgment, common sense, and reason all fly out the window when emotions kick down your door.”

“Teaching those under your leadership to put the team’s welfare ahead of their own personal desires is hard because it runs counter to human nature – the natural instinct to watch out for yourself first, to take rather than to give, to withhold rather than to share.”

“If you collect enough pennies you’ll eventually be rich. Each relevant and perfected detail was another penny in our bank.”

“An individual grounded in the fundamentals has, I believe, a much higher likelihood of success when sudden change is forced upon him.”

“The score didn’t matter. He felt that we weren’t playing with intensity … The fact that we were ahead as incidental. What mattered to him was that we weren’t playing to our potential.” (Lynn Shackleford)

“Wasting even one minute was painful for me – like throwing a gold coin into the sea, never to be recovered.”

“Activity must be organized with a productive purpose or goal in mind; otherwise, it’s no different from what you’d see on a school’s playground – kids running around, lots of movement but little achievement.”

“A leader resorts to punishment because he lacks understanding of its limitations as well as the skills necessary to create motivation based on pride rather than fear.”

“Frequent and gratuitous praise removes the great value of a sincere compliment.”

“Identifying an individual under my leadership as being better than the others – the ‘greatest’ – runs contrary to my bedrock belief about success. I believe that personal greatness is measured against one’s own potential, not against that of someone else on the team or elsewhere.”

“’You can always do more than you think you can.’ That’s the biggest thing I got from Coach Wooden’s teaching.” (Doug McIntosh)

“The leader’s attitude, conscious, and subconscious, inevitably becomes the attitude of those he leads.”

“He did not want ‘yes men’ around him.” He was very succinct, clear, substantive – “not rude, just a great sense of urgency … He kept it simple – but intense; not emotional, just very intense.” (Gary Cunningham)

“Coach Wooden didn’t talk about winning – ever … Winning was not mentioned, ever – only the effort, the preparation, doing what it takes to bring out our best in practice and games. Let winning take care of itself.” (Dave Meyers)

“You may have noticed that when unexpected good fortune arrives at our doorstep, we often accept it without thought, not even a tip of the hat. In trying times, however, we are quick to conclude that the fates are working directly and unfairly against us – to find an excuse to let up, lose heart, and then quit.”

“Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal; never whine, never complain, never make excuses.” (Wooden’s Father)

“The great lesson I can take from Coach Wooden is this: The best thing you can do in life is your best. You’re a winner when you do that, even if you’re on the short end of the score … More than anyone I’ve ever known, he comes closes to practicing what he preaches … Honesty, being unselfish, caring about your teammates, a good work ethic, all these things were stressed constantly.” (Ken Washington)

“Even though it can never be attained, perfection should be our goal.”

“It was my attempt to help the players avoid overconfidence and complacency – the infection of success. It is an infection that is often fatal.”

“A leader truly dedicated to the team’s welfare doesn’t make himself irreplaceable.”

In Closing

Pick up Wooden on Leadership right here – or pick it up at your local library.

Learn more about his leadership lesson and legacy at CoachWooden.com

Wooden’s straightforward, humble, honest, and solid. My hope is that more people live out his philosophies on leadership, partnership, and mentorship.

Our legacy is built every day in the actions we take and the words we say. I’ve not been nearly as intentional as I could be.