California lost one of its greatest leaders and role models last Friday with the passing of legendary UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden.
I am dedicating today’s The Business Perspective to Coach Wooden because his leadership principles – on which he based his life and coaching career – are what business, government, labor and environmental groups need to learn if we are to re-energize the California Dream and win as a team for our State.
In the midst of a week of news stories about continued unemployment, a crashing stock market, terrorism and conflict around the globe, and the largest oil disaster in the history of the planet, a giant of a man died quietly surrounded by family after being visited by so many friends and those he mentored at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, a short walk from where he made sports history.
Coach Wooden was an icon in college sports, but he could very well have been a great businessman, college president, mayor or legislative leader because he understood that all great organizations are the result of exceptional team efforts by those who share a common goal.
Coach Wooden understood the importance of putting aside individual egos and personal ambitions for the good of the team. He knew that camaraderie, shared values and hard work could enable individuals to achieve collectively what no one else had ever done. Everything he stood for is what the collective body of leaders in California and Los Angeles need to embrace today if our State is to benefit from divergent opinions rather than being paralyzed by them.
For Coach Wooden, principles were more important than publicity, building character was more important than accumulating power, persistence was more important than skill, family was more important than fame and faith was more important than anything else.
It is an understatement to say that Los Angeles and California face major challenges ahead. All of us in business, labor, the environmental movement and government would be well-served to envision ourselves on Coach Wooden’s team and put his principles of leadership to work as we rebuild our economy and create a long-term and sustainable future for our State.
John Wooden understood the power of teamwork and the beauty of success in which everyone feels a share of the credit. That is what California needs. If Coach Wooden gathered us together in the same room at the start of this journey, he would probably begin with a team exercise and teach us all how to tie our shoestrings. For California and Los Angeles to come out winners, all of us in leadership must begin seeing ourselves on the same team.