Leadership in Sports
Leadership is important in all sports because it influences behaviour.
Team captains, managers, and coaches all have to have leadership
qualities, they also have to be men and women of genuine inspiration.
The value of such captains and leaders cannot be underestimated
weather they have a laser tongue and short fuse such Roy Keane at
Manchester United FC or a man of few words and shows little emotion
such as Martin Johnson of Leicester Tigers RUFC and England. Both of
these players are both incredible leaders but they have different
styles, but they both have one thing in common they have
the respect of the other players around them.
We must remember that leaders are not just team captains, they can be
coaches managers, and in individual sports
the athlete themselves. The
captain is basically the manager’s eyes and ears in a team. He is the
one the rest of the team confide in, which is why it so often appears
that a manager and captain have be carved from the same mould, they
operate on the same wavelength and have the same aspirations.
So what makes a good leader, all the points explain this,
· Communication skills
· High motivation
· Having a clear goal or vision
· Being good at or having knowledge of sport themselves
There are many factors that affect leadership. Chelladurai identified
three main factors that affect leadership.
1. The characteristics of the situation
2. The characteristics of the leader
3. The characteristics of the people who are to be led (the group
Below is a diagram of this theory.
The more prominent the factors in a leader the better they will be or
become. If the leadership qualities
are what the group member’s
desire, they are more likely to follow the leader.
According to Carron (1981) there are two ways to become a leader;
1. Emergent Leaders- come from within the group because they are
skilful or because the rest of the team have selected them. A good
example of this is, Steve Thompson of Northampton Saints. He was voted
as captain by the rest of the team.
2. Prescribed Leaders- are appointed from an external source to the
team. An example of a prescribed leader would be David Beckham of the
England team, he was chosen by the England management team.
If the leader is an emergent leader they will normally be respected
more and have the support of the team as they have chose the person
they wish to lead them. Whereas prescribed leaders aren’t always the
best choice as “resentment often occurs if the team already have a
good cohesion (before a captain is chosen) or if there is an
individual within the team structure members feel should be their
Task orientated or person orientated leaders are also different and
gain respect in different ways. Fielder (1967) said task orientated
leaders are those who have good activity related skills/knowledge.
They are those who can lead the team due to `their understanding of
the task and they lead because of this knowledge or experience’. Most
coaches are task orientated leaders, so this type of leadership is
seen a lot in athletics and a racket game such as badminton. They use
their knowledge and experience to tell the athlete or player how they
will have to train or perform so they can achieve their task. For
example if a sprinter was fast but was losing power because they
weren’t driving there arms enough out of the blocks a coach would pick
up on this and help them correct it.
Person orientated leaders are, however the ones with good
inter-personal skills and know how to get the best out of each player,
they are also good motivators. They are interested in the well-being
of the players, more than the task in hand. They believe that if the
players are happy and team spirit is high, they will play better
therefore complete the task. This is much like the style adopted by
David Beckham as he will guide the young with an arm round the
There are three subsections of leader, these are
3. Laissez fare
Roy Keane (football) or Martin Johnson (rugby) are examples of
autocratic leaders. They lead from the front and they encourage and
inspire the team through such factors as their own performance,
especially if they are playing badly or when they are losing. This
style of leadership requires good decision making skills as the
captain is responsible for what to do in critical situations when the
game can often be on the line. A situation like this can make or break
a leader. England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was criticised for
failing to show these guidance skills and passion in the recent World
Cup due to an un-inspired second half performance from his squad
against a 10 man Brazil.
Democratic leaders are similar to person orientated leaders they
Listen to and act on opinions of the group. they may go as far as
taking a vote and this type of leader will always listen to others. A
long jumper could have a democratic coach, if it is debatable weather
he learns the correct technique or keeps his natural, more comfortable
one then the coach may seek help from other long jump coaches.
Laissez fare leaders make very few decisions and give very little
feedback, the group members do mainly as they wish. It could be argued
that this style does not actually involve leadership. It’s a more of
anything goes sort of group, this could improve confidence as the
group feels trusted in making their own decisions, however it could
also lead to a drop in moral due to lack of guidance and poor
In conclusion I think that leaders are born not made. In terms of
man-management this can be learnt. Leadership derives from the
individual’s own personality. Emergent, person orientated, autocratic
leaders are seen as the most suited for team games, whereas a tactical
task orientated leader is suited to athletics or badminton. All
leadership styles have positive and negative effects, but it is down
to the leader himself to deliver and inspire in the most crucial of
circumstances regardless the style of leadership. I think the best
example of this has to be the great Martin Johnson as he led England
to a Grand Slam Six Nations And Lifted The IRB Rugby World Cup.