051 - Book Breakdown | Ryan Bennett reviews Wooden on Leadership
14 min

Overview:Ryan Bennett, the founder of The Intentional Day, reviews Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden.   

More about Ryan:Ryan is a husband and soon to be father. He began his career running a tech startup in Silicon Valley and became a statistic when that business failed after a few years. After that defeat, he spent months of internal reflection and growth and had the opportunity to join a few others to found a successful company in Kansas City. He is now taking what he has learned from both his failures and successes and teaching others how living intentionally is the only real way to turn failures into successes. He teaches people on how to be more intentional with their life, business, and teams. 

Why this book:Ryan mentioned how there are many leadership books and tactics out there, but how this one stood out to him. Wooden on Leadership focuses on us as people. This book talks about the principles in which he lived his own life and how he applied those principles to lead hundreds, to possibly thousands, of high achieving people (hall of fame athletes, coaches, etc). This book also explains how until we focus on developing great people, we won’t have great leaders.

Author outline:John Wooden is one of winningest coaches in the history of college basketball. He made UCLA into the powerhouse it is today during his tenure. He won 10 championships in 12 years, 7 in a row. He also had a record of an 88 game win streak. However, Wooden never talked about winning a game. He was solely focused on what the person can do to be better every day. 

Key takeaways:

  1.  Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. 

Background: In 1947, Wooden coached basketball at Indiana State. They were a relatively small school, but made it into what would have been the NCAA tournament at that time. 

However, the tournament prohibited African Americans from playing. Wooden ended up turning down the invitation because they wouldn’t accept one of his players and the season ended. He didn’t think it was right and refused to leave out a teammate. 

The next year, they were again invited and Wooden again turned it down because they still refused to let African Americans play. The tournament then backed down and decided to let African Americans play. Wooden’s team ended up making it to the championship game. 

Principle: It matters to care about your people. As Wooden says in his book, “If you don’t think of your team as a family, why should the team think of you as head of the family?” (pg. 85). You have to show love and respect for those under your leadership for your team to be successful. People want to be seen and heard especially from their leaders. 


-What are you doing to truly hear from your team today? 

-How are you creating a ‘wow’ moment for one person to show them you truly do care about them? 

-What will you intentionally put into action today to show the people around you that you do really care about them. 

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. 


2. Emotion is your enemy

Explanation: This isn’t about ignoring your emotions or stuffing them down deep. Instead, Wooden is talking about a high level of emotional intelligence where you understand and control your emotions to be sure they aren’t driving your behavior. 

“Intensity makes you stronger, emotionalism makes you weaker”

Background: Bobby Knight, another famous Indiana basketball coach, was known for his fiery personality. He won 3 national championships and had a very successful team. He was eventually fired for throwing a chair on the court during a game. 

Vs. John Wooden, who would sit calmly and quiet on the sidelines. He was repeatable, reliable, and his success was ongoing.

Principle: In his book Wooden mentions, “The Hallmark of successful leadership is consistently maximum performance. Emotionalism opens a leader up to inconsistency . . . a leader with a volatile temperament is vulnerable and so is the team that he/she leads” (pg. 109). 

Cultivate consistency by understanding yourself more and what emotions are driving your behavior. 

Application: You can increase your emotional intelligence by taking the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 test in the book. It will give you information on the 4 main categories of emotional intelligence as well as tactics on how to improve. 

You also carry an emotion card to pinpoint your emotions at the moment. This will help you understand what you are feeling as well as how to put it into words and then how to operate correctly.  

Lastly, you can watch film. Ryan mentions how he watches film at least once a day to go over a conversation he had. He tries to increase his emotional intelligence by seeing what he missed and then reflect on what he will do differently next time. 

We need to intentionally focus on our emotional intelligence because emotions that are out of our control are the enemy. 


3. Don’t look at the scoreboard

Background: Wooden would never talk about winning the game. He was more focused on how the game was played rather than actually winning. He would still be disappointed if the game was won, but the players did not play up to their full potential. Likewise, he would still be proud if the game was lost, but the players did the best they could. 


Principle: Wooden mentions, “A good leader determines what occupies the team’s attention,” (pg. 211). Distractions, such as winning championships or trophies, are prevalent today. Distractions such as likes, promotions, other jobs, etc. take away from you focusing on what you truly want and how you will achieve it. 


-What are your main activities that move you towards hitting your goals?

-Just as important, what are your distractions (or scoreboards)? 

We need to intentionally focus on what we can control that is developing us into the person we want to become. The score will take care of itself.  


How to contact Ryan:

Email:  ryan@theintentionalday.com

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ryanabennett

The Intentional Day: theintentionalday.com

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