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Lead the Wooden Way

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The late, legendary basketball Coach John Wooden led UCLA to 10 NCAA Basketball Championships in 12 years and at one point won 88 in a row. But Coach Wooden was more concerned with leading men and helping them become the best they could be - in life - on and off the basketball court.

At the impressionable age of 13, I was lucky enough to attend one of Coach Wooden's basketball camps. Even at that young age, it was clear to me that Coach Wooden had a God-given ability to motivate and bring the best out of his players and students - to help us reach our full potential. Three of Mr. Wooden's lessons have stuck with me throughout the years and can easily be applied to great Airman leadership.

The first of Coach Wooden's lessons is, "Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but what you should have accomplished with your ability." As a leader, our challenge is to guide our Airmen to reach their full potential, to reach beyond what is easily attained, and to use all of their talents to better the Air Force, their squadron, their family and themselves. As Airmen, we may receive many awards and decorations, but should never forget that our true reward is pride in accomplishing the mission, in the people we have influenced, and the impact we have had on the Air Force and our country.

The second lesson is my favorite, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." As leaders, our emphasis on building and maintaining strong character is often hard to define. For me character, as a foundation for steady leadership, is about being true to the nametags on my uniform; U.S. Air Force and my last name.

The third of Mr. Wooden's lessons is very appropriate as the Wing prepares for our Air Education and Training Command Compliance Inspection in November: "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." In basketball, the smallest details, like crisp passes and moving your feet on defense to ensure you are in position to defend, are constant reminders that the smallest details, when added together, lead to victory. Likewise, in CI preparation, focusing on the smallest details during our self inspections will ensure we are ready to perform our best on game day. As leaders in the Air Force, we have to be precise to ensure we can win in air, space and cyberspace. Whether we are planning an AC-130 Gunship mission, or training for that eventuality, a detail-oriented approach will ensure we can apply desired effects at the precise time and place we are required to do so.

In the end, we can learn many things about leadership from Coach John Wooden. As Airmen, if we take his advice and truly strive to reach our full potential, build strong character, and pay attention to detail, the impact we will have on the Air Force will be far reaching. By leading the Wooden Way, Team Goodfellow will be ready to tackle any task - to include the CI in November!