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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leaders Learn: Leaders Teach

Written by: on January 20, 2021

“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.”[1] 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.”[2]

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.[3] 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.”[4] 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.”[5] 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.[6] 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.”[7] 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!

[1] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014),1.

[2] Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life, 1.

[3] https://www.sunriseseniorliving.com/blog/february-2019/5-benefits-of-reading-as-you-grow-older.aspx#:~:text=Reading%20requires%20you%20to%20focus,with%20and%20meet%20new%20people.

[4] John Wooden and Steve Jamison, Wooden on Leadership (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), 92.

[5] John Wooden and Steve Jamison, Wooden on Leadership, 92.

[6] https://www.business.com/articles/why-leaders-need-to-read/

[7] John Wooden and Steve Jamison, The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007), 5.

About the Author

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Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

11 responses to “Leaders Learn: Leaders Teach”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Greg, when I initially started thinking about the problems of community within in the church and was wrestling with different problems I’ve faced in the past, I always found that fiction had a way of giving me the words to process different parts of my journey. I would be reading and think, “That’s it!” and could finally process it with others.

    What are the books that impacted you the most? And what are THE books you think everyone should read?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Dylan that is truly a hard question! I could give a long list of leadership books that have affected the way I view leadership as well as, several theology books that have molded my thinking over the years. But when I look at books that have impacted me to the core and shifted paradigms I can only list a few. Of course, one of them is the bible. Others would be Henry Nouwen’s book on the prodigal son, a book I read every few years to remind me that I am to be like that father in the parable and not the elder son. EM Bounds collection on prayer sits beside my chair in the living room. It is a book I have read multiple times. It has probably molded my prayer life more than any other books I have read on prayer. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby is one that I revisit frequently to remind me that it is not God’s job to fit in my plans but mine to fit in His. The final set of books would be those by Emerson and Henry Thoreau. They are thought provoking discourses that force me to think out of the box. Though I read very little fiction both Lewis and Tolken have been fun companions. To this day I still enjoy reading a Loius L’Amour western (I own every book in hard back, over 100 titles). He uses historical locations and good always wins over evil and the good guy always gets the girl, all without cussing and sexual connotations.

  2. mm John McLarty says:

    I really appreciate this post. I’d really never tied teaching and coaching together until I was older and I heard Bobby Knight talk about the two. When Coach Knight became an analyst for TV broadcasts, I was fascinated as he taught his way through a game. The best coaches see themselves as teachers. And good teachers are always learning- learning new things, learning new ways to teach, learning from students. Teaching is also dignified. One community resource provider I know includes on its intake questionnaire this question: “What is one thing you know so well that you could teach to someone else?” The question assumes everyone, even those in need of assistance, can do something. And when one is able to share wisdom or knowledge to help another learn something new, it raises their humanity. Who have been some of your most impactful teachers?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      John,
      Beyond those books and authors that I have taken on as teachers and mentors I can think of two people that have played majors roles in helping me see beyond my personal struggles and into the future of possibility. One was Byron Schurg my 7th grade teacher who help a rebellious young man embrace the importance of being a positive influencer to those around me. The other would be Dr. Bob Neiman, close friend, mentor and teacher. His thought processes and biblical convictions stretched me tremendously. Light reading for him was Charles Spurgeon’s 3 volume commentary on Psalms.

  3. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Being a life-long learner is one trait my parents instilled in me that I am most thankful for. I don’t know if they knew at the time how expensive that would become. haha.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Shawn,
      I once had a mentor tell me that the best investment a leader can make is in themselves. This broadens their ability to lead and increases their capacity for change.

  4. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    Greg,
    Your words remind me of a friend of mine whom I served with in BSF. She would always tell me that each moment, every question, provides a training opportunity. As a class admin for a class of 650 women, I had many opportunities to field questions and lead people to answers via training (or teaching). I’d resource them so they could find info themselves, thus equipping them to navigate challenges differently. Often this was done through questions. Not questions that belittle, but ones that encourage curiosity. This is a skill I continue to develop in my role as a spiritual director. The beauty of sharing our knowledge or life experience through questions, is it allows others to explore/examine life in new ways. Have you ever had a mentor or teacher ask you a question that you had to live out the answer for, meaning it couldn’t be answered just from reading a book or acquiring new knowledge via another person’s knowledge?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Darcy,
      Yes, Dr. Bob Neiman a friend, mentor and spiritual father often asked me questions that forces me to look beyond my circumstances and that could only be answered over time. I also have a number of coaching/ counselor friends that I periodically hire to ask me the hard questions and who give me exercises to walk out my decisions. In my view every leader, coach, teacher and mentor needs someone that they can go to that will love and respect them enough to confront the masks we often wear and ask the hard questions that get us out of our over inflated egos.

  5. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Thanks Greg, you offer so much in your posts. I feel like I need to read extra closely. There certainly are different kinds of reading. I suppose at the outset, it does matter what/who we read.

    Thankful to be able to learn more about John Wooden through you. There are different kinds of leaders; John was a respected leader. Could his style of leadership (as teacher and lifetime learner) work in every context of leadership? Are there examples of a John Wooden style of leadership ‘out there’ that are progressing/developing/evolving his approach and thought (leadership framework)?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Chris,
      When looking at leadership I think it is helpful to boil it down to its rawest definition. Leadership in its rawest form is nothing more than influence. For John Wooden leadership took the form of being one of the most progressive coaches of his time. He intentionally was racially diverse during the civil rights movement and was challenged to keep his teams focuses during the upheaval on colleges campuses during the Vietnam war. All good leaders may have similar foundational principles but each one takes on the characteristics of the environment in which they are leading. Leadership in general needs to be progressive and cutting edge. It is important to understand there is a big difference between management and leadership. Managers in an organization are hired to maintain a direction not change a companies direction. Leaders on the other hand are focused on change. Despite ones position in life we can be both a manager and a leader but it is important to understand the purpose and value of each function.

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