Love and Wooden’s Pyramid of Success

March Madness, the term given to college basketball’s national championship tournament, is an exciting time of year for basketball fans. Inevitably, at this time, references are made to one of college basketball’s greatest coaches, the late John Wooden. I have read quite a bit about Coach Wooden and consider him to have been not just a great coach but an outstanding leader. Recently, I learned something about Coach Wooden that I had never read before. In a story in Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal, writer John McCarthy recounted a story about how Coach Wooden, late in his life, admitted that he made a mistake when he developed his famous Pyramid of Success.

Coach John Wooden

Coach John Wooden

The mistake, Coach Wooden said, is that he forgot “Love” in his Pyramid of Success.  This Pyramid outlines the fundamental building blocks for succeeding in basketball and in life. McCarthy explains Wooden’s thought about his mistake in this way, “When we combine our absolute best efforts to a focused cause, and truly love what we are doing, we genuinely have achieved success. Love is the passion and driving force behind our great efforts. Coach loved to teach. He loved his players. The results took care of themselves.”

Love is probably not something you’ve thought much about with regards to the organizations and teams you lead. But as leaders, we should learn from the omission that John Wooden says he made. Do you love what you do? Do you love the team members who work for you? Do you love your organization and its mission? When you love what you do, and who you do it for and with, it’s easy to give great effort. It is this great effort that will help you to succeed. But remember, this theory applies to your team members also. When they love what they do, and who they do it for and with, they will give great effort. And great effort is how great organizations are made. So if you want your organization to succeed, learn from Coach Wooden and introduce some love. Love your team and do your best to make sure they love being part of your team.

Thanks for reading,

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
Blog –
Facebook – JVEarleConsulting
Book – 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football,


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