“It was September 2006. Wooden was not quite ninety-six years old. Even at his advanced age, he was still a student of the world eager to collect one more crumb of wisdom that he could dispense to the next friend, interviewer, former player or stranger who came calling.” John Wooden believed in the importance of personal growth. Seth David the author of Wooden: A Coach’s Life when visiting John at his apartment observed, “The first thing you notice were the books. Big books, little books, picture books, children’s books, art books, religious books, coaching books, sports books, fiction books, science books. Before I walked through the door, they were there to greet me in tall neat piles in the front hallway. The books were stacked on floors, lines up on tables, piled on desks, jammed into bookcases.”
Reading is a critical part of leadership. Why read unless you’re willing to impart what you read into others. As you grow older, reading does have its benefits but, it seems to be a waste of knowledge and wisdom if it isn’t first processed internally and then shared. There are plenty of articles that show that as we grow older reading improves our “cognitive health” it improves our memory and helps create a healthy mental focus. For John Wooden reading was more than a process to keep his mind sharp. Despite his title as “Coach” his primary job in his mind was to educate others. In other words, John Wooden was a teacher first and coach second. In his mind “effective leaders are, first and foremost, good teachers.” Every leader is in the teaching business no matter what his environment. For Wooden his calling was clear. Teach those under his care “to perform to the best of their ability in ways that best served the goals of our team.” Every leader should have a similar mindset. Their responsibility isn’t just to the individual but to the team as well. Each person plays a role, and a leader helps that person play their role to the best of their ability.
The value of being a well-read leader is that creative ideas can be gained that can spawn innovation. It allows a leader to stand on the shoulders of others and learn from other’s experiences. Reading can also broaden one’s understanding creating a level of empathy for others. Let’s face it. A leader can only gain so much experience throughout life. By reading and interacting with other leaders our foundations are strengthened and our ability to lead is broadened. For John Wooden learning was part of who he was. “Ben Franklin made this observation about a fellow he had known in Philadelphia: “The man died at 25, but he wasn’t buried until 75.” Mr. Franklin was describing a man who stopped learning early on.” Wooden continues “To excel as a coach and leader you must be a good teacher: to excel as a teacher, leader, and coach, you must remain a student who keeps learning.” When does a leader die? If they refuse to continue to learn they die much younger than they should despite how long their life is. Yet for others like John Wooden because he was a lifelong learner his leadership will live on through the lives of those he poured his life and knowledge into. What we learn effects how we live and how we live effects those around us. What we do with what we know matters, as long as, we are willing to give it away!
 Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014),1.
 John Wooden and Steve Jamison, Wooden on Leadership (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 92.
 John Wooden and Steve Jamison, The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007), 5.