Thoughts on Leadership

By Jane Rogers, IPLI Mentor & Principal at Milan Elementary School

With the NBA Finals recently happening, I found myself looking at a favorite book written by famous basketball coach, John Wooden, titled Wooden on Leadership.  John Wooden had an illustrious career, leading UCLA to ten NCAA Division 1 Tournament Championships in twelve years, including seven consecutive championships.  Wooden is one of the most beloved coaches in sports.

Coach Wooden also made a name for himself by using inspirational messages to teach.  He has written many books and created the Pyramid of Success, which gives direction for living a successful life.  Wooden defines success as peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.

I had the pleasure of hearing Coach Wooden speak many years ago.  His lessons are so fitting for principals, especially as we are about to embark  upon another cohort of principals joining IPLI.

One of the first lessons Coach Wooden teaches is that before you can lead others, you must lead yourself.  During the first year of IPLI, we will encourage principals to step away from thoughts of their schools, and focus upon themselves.  This can be a challenging task at best.  Asking principals to complete an action research project where they are the central focus will allow principals to heed the advice of Coach Wooden and lead yourself first.

Coach Wooden says success is unattainable without enthusiasm.  He says it comes from “your heart being in your work.”  He felt this was so important that Coach Wooden declared enthusiasm as a cornerstone of his Pyramid of Success.  Our enthusiasm will spark others, igniting their passions for learning.

Think about how your enthusiasm influences your school.  Remember Dr. Todd Whitaker shares that when the principal sneezes, the whole school catches a cold.  You and your actions are noticed by others.  This is a central reason you will benefit from participation in IPLI this year.  The sessions and the regional meetings will refresh you and spark your enthusiasm to be the best leader you can be.

One of my favorite Woodenisms is a poem:
No written word nor spoken plea,
Can teach your team what they should be,
Nor all the books on all the shelves,
It’s what the leader is himself.

As we prepare for a new school year, and as we greet new principals into IPLI, let’s all take time to reflect on our roles as leaders.  We are role models for students, staff, and our community.  It is worth the time to invest in ourselves so that we can create leaders in others.