Leadership Blog


A note from Josh Habermann

Brian Reeves - President

In all our conversations since MMEA, All-State Choir conductor Josh Habermann has repeatedly sung the praises of Missouri choral directors. Here is a note he sent me today.


Submit your session request

Brian Reeves - President

The MCDA Summer Conference "InCHOIRing Minds" will be held at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City July 24-27. To submit a session proposal please complete the form here.



Leadership Lessons from John Wooden

A colleague of mine took the following notes while reading a book about John Wooden, the famous college basketball coach.

  1. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.  Your character is who you truly are.  Your reputation is what others think you are.
  2. A leader’s most powerful ally is his own example.  Lead by example- don’t just talk, do it.
  3. When an apology is necessary, give it.
  4. Small things really matter- “for lack of a nail, the shoe was lost, for lack of a shoe, the horse was lost, for lack of a horse, the battle was lost….”
  5. Whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with very much.
  6. You can’t have a brand new start, but you can have a brand new ending
  7. Faith, Family, Friendship (in some order)
  8. Be brave enough to offer friendship.
  9. Don’t mistake kindness for friendship.
  10. Talk to people, not at them.
  11. “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he goes through life, he will soon find himself left alone.  A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.”
  12. If you can’t be a friend to yourself, how can you be a friend to others?
  13. “All knowledge is of itself some value.  There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable that I would not rather know it than not.”- Samuel Johnson
  14. Young people need models, not critics.
  15. As a teacher, be direct and to the point.
  16. The mediocre teacher tells.  The good teacher explains.  The superior teacher demonstrates.  The great teacher inspires.
  17. Eight laws of learning: explanation, demonstration, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition.
  18. The great thanksgiving feast is eaten one bite at a time.  Gulp it all down at once and you get indigestion.  To be an effective teacher, you must break things down in bite-size digestible amounts.
  19. “A teacher affects eternity- he can never tell where his influence stops”
  20. You have to earn the right to be proud and confident.
  21. You rarely move rapidly upward, but you can go downhill fast.
  22. The purpose of a teacher is to “draw out” not to “cram in”
  23. In a study, the highest paid Americans read for 2-3 hours a day.  The lowest paid Americans do not read at all.
  24. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”
  25. Wisdom transcends knowledge- you need knowledge to build a weapon, but you need wisdom to know that you should not use it.  You have knowledge of every play or movie, but wisdom not to correct someone who misquotes it, so you don’t hurt their feelings.
  26. Concentrate on your good qualities.
  27. Make sure everyone gets something positive out of their association with you.
  28. A man makes mistakes, but is not a failure until he starts blaming someone else.
  29. Someone who says “It can’t be done,” should never interrupt the person who is doing it.
  30. Doubting someone is easier than trusting them.  But the latter is so much more rewarding.
  31. “Victory may be the by-product, but the significance of the score is secondary to the importance of finding out how good you can be.”
  32. You can work without being industrious.  But you cannot be industrious without work.
  33. The harder you work and the better you plan, the luckier you get.
  34. There is no area of English where I am a genius.  As a leader and coach, my success depends on the success of my students. 
  35. Those working under me are not working for me, but with me.
  36. To get respect, you must give respect.
  37. Pride is a much better motivator than fear.   Fear works in the short-term pride in the long-term.
  38. The best students will always get praise. The struggling students need praise the most.
  39. English is the vehicle-teaching is really about life.
  40. Lead with the head and the heart.  Love is essential in being a good leader.
  41. A good leader creates belief.
  42. The most productive leaders are those constantly willing to listen and learn.
  43. It’s difficult to listen when you’re talking
  44. Silent and Listen have the same letters, just different arrangements.
  45. “The purpose of discipline is to help, prevent, correct and improve.  Punishment, on the other hand, antagonizes.”
  46. Discipline is the ability to endure momentary pain or discomfort in order to earn greater rewards in the future.
  47. Nothing of value is ever required without discipline.
  48. Past success does not guarantee success in the future.
  49. “Sometimes we get so concerned with the things we don’t have, the things over which we have no control, that the things over which we do have control become adversely affected.”
  50. “Patience is a virtue in preparing for any task of significance.  It takes time to create excellence.  If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.”
  51. “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.”
  52. It is better to sleep on things beforehand then to lie awake about them afterward. 
  53. “How poor are they that have no patience.  What wound did ever heal, by but degrees.”  -Shakespeare (and yes this was a quote in a basketball book!)
  54. “Why is it so hard for many to realize that winners are usually the ones who work harder, work longer and, as a result, perform better?”
  55. Where did Clorox 409 get its name?  Because the first 408 times the formula didn’t work.  Blows the whole 3rd times a charm thing out of the water.
  56. Never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.
  57. Employees must understand that they’re totally free to challenge and question any decision, but they cannot be allowed to question your authority.
  58. Success all begins with attention to, and perfection of, details.  Details.  Details.  Develop a love for details.  They usually accompany success.
  59. Make yourself available and keep your word.
  60. If a CEO picks up trash or pieces of paper on the ground, many others will see that and think, “If he’s doing it, why shouldn’t I?”
  61. This phrase was used over and over again in the book- “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
  62. Do the right things, in the right ways, for the right people, at the right times, for the right reasons.
  63. Big things are accomplished only through the perfection of minor details.
  64. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address only contained 272 words, and 202 of them were one syllable.  There are only seven notes, but look what Chopin and Beethoven did with those seven notes.  The great truths in life are the simple ones.
  65. Just be good- to yourself and others.
  66. Expect your players (students) to challenge you and don’t back down when they do.


Good teachers:

  1. Demonstrate patience- no two cases are identical.  The teacher must always have patience.
  2. Break complex issues down to the simplest details.
  3. Strive to instill character
  4. Show students you really care
  5. Love learning as much as teaching

Good leaders:

  1. Are servants
  2. See through the eyes of their followers
  3. Ask people to work with them and not for them
  4. Are people builders
  5. Have faith in people
  6. Use the heart as well as the head
  7. Have a sense of humor
  8. Can be led

Are people who don’t 

  1. constantly try be leaders.
  2. Empower those they are responsible for.


Words of advice:

  1. Work to develop your God-given gifts
  2. Work when you’re supposed to be working- successful people have learned to make themselves do the thing that has to be done, when it has to be done, whether they like it or not.
  3. Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.
  4. “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems.” – Gandhi
  5. Love the process of working to be your best
  6. Hard work will change your life, and your world.
  7. Tomorrow is determined by what you do today.
  8. Great leaders are always out in front holding a banner, rather than behind with a whip.
  9. As a leader you must be determined to find the best way and not just focus on having it “your way.”
  10. Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously
  11. Be willing to share credit when you succeed.
  12. Be willing to listen to criticism.
  13. “But of a good leader who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, “We did this ourselves.”” (Lao- Tzu)
  14. I will get ready, and then perhaps my chance will come
  15. If I am through learning, I am through.
  16. Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting.
  17. Tell the truth.  That way you don’t have to remember a story.
  18. Never make excuses.  Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.
  19. The time to make friends is before you need them.
  20. “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”- Lao- Tzu
  21. “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as night the day.  Thou canst not then be false to any man.” –Shakespeare
  22. Frequent and gratuitous praise removes the great value of a sincere compliment.
  23. Do not be too concerned about what others may think of you.  Be very concerned about what you think of yourself.
  24. Be a first-rate version of yourself.  Not a second-rate version of someone else.
  25. You were born an original.  Don’t die a copy.

The Transformative Power of Classical Music


A Thanksgiving Message