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The Gold Standard

By Mike Krzyzewski

with Jamie Spatola,

Business Plus, 236 pages, $28.99

Coach Wooden's Leadership Game Plan For Success

By John Wooden

and Steve Jamison,

McGraw-Hill, 276 pages, $32.95

In the past decade, we have become sensitive to the different styles that separate many male and female leaders.

The stereotypical male leader is considered more naturally aggressive, goal-oriented and a lone wolf, while the female leader is naturally more sensitive and concerned about people.

But to the extent that a major socialization mechanism for boys as they grow up is sports, two current books by legendary basketball coaches suggest that those differences between male and female leadership should be less pronounced.

If there's a theme that runs through both books, it's that success comes out of teamwork, and successful teamwork flows from subordinating ego to the team.

Leadership for the two coaches - Duke University's Mike Krzyzewski and long-time UCLA coach John Wooden - involves mentoring their charges in good character and collaboration.

That stands out most in The Gold Standard: Building A World-Class Team, where Mr. Krzyzewski, assisted by his daughter Jamie Spatola, tells about his challenge as a college coach guiding some of the best NBA players in an effort to regain supremacy for the United States at the 2008 Olympics.

After a third-place finish at the 2004 Olympics, their country realized - like Canada in the 1970s with hockey - that having a bounty of individual stars could no longer guarantee success in world championships. They could be beaten by other countries where the players worked together more effectively as a team.

Your office may have some self-obsessed egotists who don't co-operate naturally with others. But the men Mr. Krzyzewski was asking to give up three summers to join him in this quest for gold had, since high school, been fawned over for their basketball prowess and were walking global brands, with a bevy of assistants and agents dedicated to taking care of their every need. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh - all had monumental egos, one would expect.

Yet, something within them - perhaps their earliest days on the basketball court - led them to want to be part of something greater than themselves, and a realization that meant exquisite collaboration.

Perhaps nothing illustrates it more than one of the game's top scorers - and top egos - Kobe Bryant, insisting on dedicating himself on this team to be a defensive stalwart, and having to be told by Mr. Krzyzewski to start trying to score more himself, rather than always looking to pass.

Mr. Krzyzewski builds the book around time and moments. He says team-building requires time to allow such things as relationships to be formed, standards to be adopted, and leadership within the team to be cultivated.

And the time you spend together as a team is defined by special moments that unite, create understanding and allow you to discover your collective identity.

As a team-building leader, you have to be sensitive to making that time and creating those moments or accentuating them when they spontaneously occur.

Their quest was fixated on winning. Nothing less than a gold medal would be sufficient.

But Mr. Wooden's philosophy at UCLA was to never mention winning a game or even to scout his opposition.

He told his players that success was not winning but working hard, continually improving themselves, and playing their best in a game.

When he was a youngster, his father told him, "Don't worry about being better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can be."

In the 1930s, teaching English and coaching basketball at Drayton High School in Kentucky, Mr. Wooden wrote his definition of success: "Success is peace of mind that is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming."

That put success, he told his basketball players over the years, totally under their own control.

"No one can give it to you; no one can take it away. No one except you," he stresses in Coach Wooden's Leadership Game Plan For Success, written with collaborator Steve Jamison.

Leaders, he tells us, are teachers. And before you teach, you must know what you want to teach.

For Mr. Wooden, it was summed up in something he developed and called The Pyramid of Success, which was the first thing he tacked up on his wall when he came to UCLA.

Its 15 points may seem trite as you read them: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, co-operation, enthusiasm, self-control, alertness, initiative, intentness, condition (which he uses for mental and moral strength), skill, team spirit, poise, confidence, and competitive greatness. The mortar to build this pyramid, for yourself or in others, is patience and faith.

But the pyramid is not trite, as the elaboration in the book makes clear: Everything is deliberately positioned to buttress or build upon the other elements.

It's the highlight of the book, an approach that served him and those he worked with well, and might also be applied in your office.

Throughout the book, there are also questionnaires to fill out, helping you to bring the 98-year-old Mr. Wooden's philosophy into your own life, and although sometimes in books such forms can seem like space fillers, these were framed to be effective.

The book can be repetitive and jarring at times, as it blends separate contributions from Mr. Wooden, Mr. Jamison elaborating on Mr. Wooden, and ex-players and assistants recalling the lessons learned from their coach. But it has a lot to tell you about leadership and collaboration in your own office.

Mr. Krzyzewski's book is technically better - seamless rather than jagged, and very dramatic as they near their gold medal. But too often the story-telling seems a bit apart from the everyday office as the exploits of Team USA are described. Still, for jocks, it will be a highly enjoyable and revealing behind-the-scenes read, and the broad messages will be valuable to all.

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