Knowledge is not enough

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- John Wooden, head basketball coach for Indiana State University from 1946-1948, and University of California, Los Angeles from 1948-1975, is one of the most brilliant leaders and coaches of our time.

Ten National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championships at UCLA (a record), including seven in a row (a record); 38 straight tournament playoff wins (a record); four perfect seasons (a record) with only one losing year as a coach, his first year, in 41 years of coaching.

What was his secret to success? How did he do it?

In his book, “Wooden on Leadership,” one of the leadership lessons he writes about is titled, “Call Yourself a Teacher.”

Wooden believed that effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers. He believed that leaders are charged with the task of teaching those under their supervision how to perform to the best of their ability in ways that best serve the goals and values of the organization.

Most experienced leaders in the Air Force have gone to the same technical schools, review similar information day-to-day, draw personnel from the same pool of available people, and are limited by similar financial constraints. Wooden writes that it comes down to the ability of the leader to teach what it takes to become a winning organization and knowing how to teach what they want done.

Have you ever worked for a leader who had all the technical knowledge in the world but couldn’t teach others? Wooden said in his book, “As you might imagine, the leadership graveyard is full of failed teams whose leaders were very well informed but could not teach to save their souls. This is true in basketball, business, and most other organizations.”

I think we would all agree with Wooden that knowledge is important, but it is not enough.

We must be able to teach what we’ve learned and pass it on to those in our organizations; not only the right way to do a job, but our values, goals, and how each one of us is important to accomplishing the mission.

If we don’t take the time to teach, mentor, and coach those under us, who will?

Wooden said, “I believe leadership itself is largely learned. Those who aspire to be leaders can do it; those who wish to be much better leaders can also do it.” He believed that the coaching and leadership skills he possessed were learned through listening (to those teaching him,) observation (of leaders,) studying, and trial and error along the way.

So Shaw Weasels, please take the time to teach, mentor and coach the individuals you lead.

Teach them to be the leaders that we need to lead the 20th Fighter Wing today, tomorrow, and into the future. As Wooden wrote, knowledge is not enough, effective leaders are good teachers. “Teacher” may not be in your duty title, but it is essential to your success as a leader and to our success as a fighter wing.