Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coach Wooden & Leadership for Entrepreneurs

I was recently speaking with an accomplished entrepreneur about leadership when he referenced this John Wooden quote: “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

What a great maxim for today’s culture, and today’s entrepreneur.

I’ve always found the relationship between “entrepreneurship” and “leadership” to be interesting.  Paradoxical, to a degree.

On one hand, most of the good entrepreneurs I know are folks who are great at operating independently, and enjoy doing so.  They don’t like bureaucracy.  They despise long meetings.  They feel cramped sitting in an office all day.  They don’t like suits, cooler talk, memos or TPS reports.  They like to innovate.  Challenge the status quo.  Get things done.  This is why they shun the corporate world for a life in the trenches as an entrepreneur.

But on the other hand, if you’re successful as an entrepreneur, you then have to build the same corporate infrastructure that you left behind to become an entrepreneur in the first place.  Either that, or you need to hand over your baby to someone else – which some entrepreneurs do but many can’t and won’t.  These latter folks need to evolve from a small team captain into a C-level executive.  An organizational leader.

Motivated by this conversation and my enjoyment of the previous quote, I took off my USC hat for a weekend and dove into leadership books from the “Wizard of Westwood.”  I found many of the lessons relevant to myself as well as entrepreneurship in general.  These are my favorites (in addition to the "Pyramid of Success" and "Seven Point Creed") and perhaps you’ll be able to connect some of your own dots as well: 

·        Coach Wooden focused on process instead of the outcome.  “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  For example, he taught players how to tie their sneakers in the first practice, and would often run plays over and over without shooting the basket.  What was important was not the shot but the action that made it possible.  "I'm not going to be talking to you about winning or losing because I think that's a byproduct of our preperation."

·        Coach Wooden experienced almost immediate success thanks to implementing an innovative, fast-break offense that disrupted and overpowered the slower traditional play of west-coast teams. The offense was based on the fitness, quickness, selflessness and teamwork of the players.

·        Although they were winning, they had yet to win a national championship so Coach Wooden decided to change tactics.  “Failure is not fatal.  Failure to change might be.”  “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

·        “Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything.  He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings.” - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

·        “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Amen.  Good luck and happy entrepreneuring.

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