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Great Leadership in Individual and Team Sports

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Great Leadership in Individual and Team Sports
Works Cited Not Included
Leadership plays a very big role in all sports, particularly in team
sports as within the group there are many relationships. A leader will
have to maintain the cohesion between individuals. In addition he will
influence an individual’s performance and affect a team’s unity.
Players look to leaders to provide them with motivation, support and
organisation. Some commonly identified traits of a good leader are
self-confidence, creativity, good communication skills, the ability to
inspire and motivate, the ability to make decisions, a desire to lead,
and a desire to influence others.

Leadership is basically the behaviour of an individual when he or she
is controlling and directing the activities of a group towards a
shared goal’ (Hemphill and Coons, 1957). Effective leadership can make
players confident and perform to their best. If the leadership is poor
the players in, for example, team sports will not have the same common
goals. This will lead to division and rivalry which will adversely
affect the team’s performance.

Researchers have explored leadership and it’s affects on behaviour
within sport. Recently Chelladurai’s Multidimensional Model of
leadership has been created to show the influence of leader behaviour
on group members and achievement, showing their effectiveness. If a
leader’s behaviour reflects the requirements of the group the better
the group’s performance and satisfaction will be.(See diagram 1)

The original theory of the making of a successful leader was the
Great Man Theory. This theory expresses the opinion that if good
leaders had similar characteristics, then leaders were born with their
traits. However I agree with the theory that there are three main
factors that interact to affect a person’s quality of leadership.

1 Leaders characteristics in terms of style and quality

2 The situation in terms of group’s cohesion, size, traditions, and
the demands they face.

3 Members characteristics considering their expectations and preferred
style of leadership.

This leads me to believe that leadership can be developed and
improved, by understanding the above points. For instance, a leader
may display behaviours which are effective in particular
circumstances. A newcomer could remember this and use the methods

There are three main categorised leadership styles which have been
identified in research by Lewin, Lippit, and White. Each style is
believed to be more effective in different situations and types of
sport. Leaders who apply the appropriate style will be more effective.

Authoritarian or autocratic style. This leader dictates to the group.
This is most suited to when a task needs to be completed or when there
is a desperate situation as they can be very inspiring. Research shows
that when this type of leader isn’t present then group members work
slower and became aggressive when things go wrong.

Democratic. This type of leader is person orientated, involving other
group members in decisions and encouraging their participation. This
leader listens to what others have to offer. However, this leader does
make the final decision and unlike the previous style of leadership,
if the leader wasn’t present then members could carry on with tasks
and cooperate. This I feel is due to the fact they have been able to
express their own ideas previously. An example of this type leadership
could be footballer David Beckham.

Laissez-faire. This is not really leadership. There is no guidance
from any dominant figure although they may try to help those in
difficult situations. Members are left to do things how they want.
This generally results in poor team spirit and poor work ethic as they
lack a common goal. This style generally applies to sports which rely
on individual performances.

These styles derive from the leader’s overall characteristics of how
they interact with team members. Their characteristics will affect the
team’s and individuals performance. Fielder summarised these
characteristics as 2 styles.

1 Task centred leadership- Leader focus’s on what has to be done.
Needs of individuals are less important than the groups goals. They
will take account of other member’s ideas but if they do not agree
with them they are autocratic and demand compliance with their
decisions. They use their knowledge to inspire.

2 Person (relationship) centred- This type of leader tries to involve
all members in decisions and may be willing to sacrifice success for
better relations in the groups and its integrity.

Good coaches try to combine the two. Different sports require
different leadership characteristics and styles.

I feel for team sports Autocratic and task orientated leadership is
generally the best style. Team sports like football and rugby are
extrovert so require extrovert leadership. In games like football you
do not have enough time to dwell on decision making. Situations change
rapidly so you need to take control and make decisions for others. If
decision making is slow the team’s performance may suffer. These games
are aggressive and physical, so I think they’d benefit from a leader
who is loud and dominant which would inspire them and guide them to
their goals. Examples of such leaders in football have been Martin
Johnson and Alex Ferguson, can lift teams when struggling and using
tactics adapt them to the situation. These people have been the
extrovert figures in teams. However not all leaders have to be
autocratic in team sports. For instance the England football captain
David Beckham is quiet but leads his team by setting examples through
his performance, motivating and guiding the young members with
inter-personal skills.

I believe democratic leaders would be most suited for racquet sports
or games like golf. This is because these games do not have physical
contact so require less aggression towards opponents; hence you do not
need extrovert leadership. Also I feel this style is best because
these sports are essentially played by individuals but do require some
form of leadership regarding relations a group decisions because at
times they compete as teams in events like the Davis cup in tennis or
doubles. In these situations members can contribute to decisions
making although the leader will make the final decisions. Individual
performances will also need some guidance from coaches or captains to
improve their performance

Individual sports such as athletics do not require a great deal of
leadership. Athletes can compete as part of a team but essentially the
athlete is competing and performing for themselves. For example, when
competing in athletics I wanted personal success when competing and
training. For this reason I feel that the leadership in this case is
mainly Lassez-faire as decisions will be made by the individual in
races. For example the Captain of an athletics team does not really
influence the performance of others or make decisions for them. He is
just a figurehead. Individual sports like this only require democratic
leadership when coaches offer training and tactics

I now understand a good leader’s behaviour matches the group member’s
needs and expectations, whilst also meeting the demands of the
situation (goals), leading to satisfaction and good performances
amongst group members. Leaders should apply the appropriate style of
leadership best for the members involved for instance just because a
sport is extrovert does not always mean the leader has to be aswell,
effective leaders take account off all factors involved and apply
them accordingly, leaders aren’t just simply born.

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"Great Leadership in Individual and Team Sports." 24 Apr 2014

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