“Punishment invokes fear. I wanted a team whose members were filled with pride, not fear.”

MR. EARL WARRINER, principal of my grade school in Centerton, Indiana, had an old-fashioned motivational tool: the switch. Cut from the hedge running alongside the schoolhouse and trimmed of thorns, it was a strong motivator for young pupils who got out of line.

One morning before our daily song, four of my classmates and I decided we’d play a practical joke on Mr. Warriner by pretending to sing—moving our lips but remaining silent. Of course, once the singing—or lack of it—began, he caught the prank and spotted the mischief makers. Our giggling gave us away.

The singers were asked to stop while Mr. Warrriner slowly ...

Get Wooden on Leadership now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.