A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of working with the 2014 Drum Corps International Drum Majors at the Annual DCI Meeting held in Phoenix, Arizona. I thought you all might like to have a glimpse into some of the leadership traits that my team discussed as essential qualities of great leaders.
Our discussion was based on the teachings and sayings of one of my favorite leadership gurus, Coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden was a legendary basketball coach at UCLA, where he won an unprecedented 10 NCAA National Championships. In fact, seven of his national titles were consecutive wins! However, the best part of Coach Wooden’s success is not the astounding number of wins throughout his career; instead it is the foundation upon which he built his program. These leadership principles are best summarized in his “Pyramid of Success,”. Coach Wooden’s core values include: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm. He puts these values at the base of the pyramid.
While there are several other elements to the Pyramid of Success, these core values that serve as the foundation of Coach Wooden’s teaching legacy are the most basic and essential skills necessary for a drum major today.
The first cornerstone of the foundation is industriousness. Today we would call this being a hard worker. In all music programs I have been involved with – high school band, college band, and drum corps – leaders are chosen by an audition that actually occurs over the course of the entire year. The actual “audition” where we physically do an interview, write an essay, or show our conducting skills is more of a formality of affirming all of the leadership skills you have displayed throughout the previous year.
Why does it matter that you show evidence of being an industrious student throughout the school year? Why does it matter that other students identify you as a hard worker?
As we all know, other students are more likely to listen to a drum major who is known for diligently working to improve his or her skills for the good of the group. Students are particularly eager to follow a leader who is a hard worker that maintains a positive attitude at all times. If you are already a hard worker with limited responsibilities, chances are good that you will still be a hard worker when you are given more responsibilities (i.e. a prominent leadership role).
Directly next to industriousness, we find friendship. While it may seem strange to see friendship labeled as an essential leadership quality, Coach Wooden’s aim with this principle was to instill the highest level of respect and camaraderie between each player on the team and himself. The saying goes, “no one will care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Therefore, we must realize that forming and cultivating personal relationships is the easiest way to show our groups how much we care.Learning first names, making personal connections, and always being respectful and kind will increase the extent of our influence exponentially.
“Coach Wooden’s core values include: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm. He puts these values at the base of the pyramid.”
Another cornerstone of Coach Wooden’s pyramid is enthusiasm, or being highly interested and motivated by an activity. The great part about leading with enthusiasm is it becomes highly contagious! Just the other day, I was watching a documentary about the leadership qualities of Marines, and in this documentary, one of the drill sergeants made a statement that he seeks to always lead his recruits with enthusiasm, “to motivate them to stay in the fight.” That phrase really struck a chord with me (pun intended), as we have the same goal when trying to motivate our ensembles. We want them to stay in the proverbial fight – to continue pushing through the fatigue or the boredom and strive for excellence. Your enthusiasm can and will make the difference in encouraging another student to continue trying their hardest to achieve at the highest levels.
To the left of enthusiasm is cooperation, or a willingness to work with others. On any team, but particularly in the band world, if we cannot maintain an atmosphere of cooperation we will always fall short of achieving our goals. Cooperation is the glue that holds us all together as a single unit, instead of simply coexisting as individuals. When we agree to join together as a collaborative team, we all travel along the same path, in the same direction, in pursuit of the same goal.
Finally, in the very center of Coach Wooden’s philosophies, we find loyalty. There are countless ways that we can show (or disprove) our loyalty within our band program. First and foremost, the loyal leader must always show great respect to the members of their ensemble by not engaging in behavior promoting unhealthy relationships or compromising trust (i.e. gossip and/ or drama). While we could talk about this topic for several weeks, let’s look at the other equally important facet of loyalty, which is being loyal to yourself – not compromising your values, your systems, or your standards. A good leader will set up a system of standards and values for their program. A great leader will enforce these systems and values relentlessly, never allowing themselves or others to settle or be less than their best.
While all of these teachings and principles are great ideas, the most important thing you can do today is to ask yourself one question: what is at your core?
If you (or your band) were to sit down and make a list of the leadership qualities you possess – the qualities that are the foundation of your personal leadership philosophy – what would make the list? Would you be identified as the loyal, trusted leader? Would you be known as a hard worker with a great attitude? If these qualities are not at the top of your list yet, do not fear! Every great leader is constantly learning and adapting, as they know change will always be necessary to keep moving forward. As you review your own core values and make an action plan for adapting your personal leadership traits, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Coach John Wooden:
“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”