How Character Fuels Intentness

UPDATED: October 18, 2023
PUBLISHED: December 20, 2017

The last block on the second tier of the Pyramid of Success, intentness, is an essential quality for any leader and team if they are going to perform near their capability.

Related: How to Live Your Life With Intentness

Coach Wooden once summarized this concept as “patience with action”—that is, having the determination, stamina and resolve to stay the course when things aren’t going well.

A great leader not only has intentness as an individual character trait, but also builds and coaches his or her team or organization in a manner that promotes and encourages intentness from all team members.

A leader and team with intentness truly believes that “a setback is a setup for a comeback.”

The intentness of the team keeps industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, self-control, alertness and initiative in motion when facing adversity. The team members themselves must individually possess these character traits if the team is going to have a “never say die” attitude.

The leader hoping to build a team with intentness should choose his team members based on these character traits before considering personality and skill.

Related: 6 Essential Traits of Good Character

Coach was doing a home visit with an excellent high school prospect when the young man’s mother asked a question. The recruit turned to his mother and said, “Mom, how could you ask Coach Wooden such a stupid question?” Coach Wooden politely ended the home visit and stopped recruiting the prospect.

When asked if he considered character in the selection process of his teams, Coach responded:

“Absolutely. Character is so important in everything. Character is what you really are. You’re the only one that knows your character. You don’t know my character. I know my character. You know my reputation. It could be different. Reputation is what you are perceived to be by others. Your character is what you really are. And certainly on all these things that I would study on the transcript, I’m determining the character of the individual. And that will determine to some extent, too, whether or not he’ll be a good team player or whether he’ll be a selfish player, thinking too much of himself.”

Coach described the importance of character as follows:

“Too many of us are concerned with building a reputation or obtaining material possessions. We should be more interested in building character within ourselves. Material possessions can’t bring contentment, peace of mind, happiness or true success.”

Adversity and power reveal character.

Related: How to Handle Adversity: Don’t Whine, Don’t Complain, Don’t Make Excuses.

Coach liked to say, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”

In an interview with Steve Churm for a 2005 edition of the OC Metro, Coach expanded on this idea.

“People change when they acquire power, authority and material possessions. A person with character won’t change. Character is what you really are inside. Some people have great individual ability, whether it’s physical or mental. They may reach great financial success. But if they don’t have character, they won’t stay there for very long. They’ll go down fast and you’ll find the road down is much faster than the road up.”

The saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” aptly describes a team with intentness. The “tough” have character.

The leader desiring a team with intentness should select the team carefully.

Related: The Foundation of Leadership

This article originally appeared on and has been republished with permission.

As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.