Why Leaders Must Have Self-Control

UPDATED: October 18, 2023
PUBLISHED: November 29, 2017

The first block on the second level of Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is self-control, an essential quality for any leader and team if they are going to perform near to their capability. It is necessary that the leader demonstrates self-control if he expects his team to have self-control.

Related: Why Self-Control Is So Important

Coach Wooden worked at maintaining his self-control on the bench during games. He explained why he thought that was important:

“I felt that my players would be more under control if I seemed to be under control. If I get out of control, how can I tell them that if they lose their self-control, they’re going to be outplayed, when I apparently am losing my self-control on the bench? I think your actions can determine to a great deal the actions of those under your supervision.”

People sometimes lose their self-control when they are surprised. Prior to each season, Coach sent his players a letter in which he clearly stated his expectations and how they as team members and individuals could expect to be treated. This process helped eliminate surprises and created an environment where self-control by all was maximized.

Related: How to Build Self-Control

The following is an excerpt from the letter Coach sent to his 1972-73 team in August of 1972:

You must discipline yourself to do what is expected of you for the welfare of the team. The coach has many decisions to make and you will not agree with all of them, but you must respect and accept them. Without supervision and leadership and a disciplined effort by all, much of our united strength will be dissipated pulling against ourselves. Let us not be victimized by a breakdown from within.

You may feel, at times, that I have double standards as I certainly will not treat you all the same. However, I will attempt to give each player the treatment that he earns and deserves according to my judgment and in keeping with what I consider to be in the best interest of the team. I know I will not be right in all of my decisions, but I will attempt to be both right and fair.

“I believe that for every artificial peak you create, you also create valleys.”

As a leader, Coach believed that maintaining self-control and thus emotional balance was critical in maximizing performance, especially when dealing with adversity. He summarized it this way:

“I believe that for every artificial peak you create, you also create valleys. When you get too high for anything, emotion takes over, and consistency of performance is lost and you will be unduly affected when adversity comes. I emphasized constant improvement and steady performance.”

It is self-control in thought and action that creates consistency.

Finally, as Coach liked to remind us, “The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.”

Related: 5 Ways Successful People Take Control of Life

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

Craig Impelman

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, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.