Monday, November 8, 2010

Better team through leadership

What:  Coach Joe is a high school football coach, and he is trying to improve the leadership on his team.  He knows that as the main leader of the team that most of the blame lays with him.  He will need to augment his current leadership method to make an effective change.  He is no alone in this his players are also responsible to be leaders.  They need to all strive to improve as leaders to positively affect their peers.
So What:  The first thing Coach Joe needs to know is what leadership is. Leadership can be defined as ‘a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal’ (Northouse, 2001, p. 3).  By being the Head Coach Joe is the formal leader of the team, and it is his responsibility to help the player achieve their goals as a team.  While the coach can have the largest impact on the team it is the responsibility of the players to act as leaders as well.  If the players do not act as leaders they do not offer a support system for the other players.

Currently Coach Joe is very ridged in his autocratic style.  He doesn’t delegate to his other coaches or the captains of the team.  By doing this he alienates the other main sources of influence on the team.  As the coach of a prestigious football program he is mostly interested in getting wins and keeping his job.  The current state of the team is so poor that only the Captains are quality leaders for the team.  None of the other players take an interest in influencing others. 

Now What:  The thing to understand is that to be a leader one first needs influence, because if a leader has no influence they can’t effect change on someone else. As the head coach he is able to influence the whole team which put him in the position to positively affect everyone on the team.  To improve the leadership skills of the team Coach Joe needs to be more flexible.  There are times when the coach needs to make the decision, that’s what makes him the team’s leader, but other times he needs to let others have input.   This allows others to feel as though they have some say in the direction of the program.
                It is important for Coach Joe to call a meeting that outlines the benefits of peer leadership.  While they do not have the ability to influence the large number of people the coach does, the teammates are able to provide leadership to individuals.  The fact is that all the players know each other and they may have influence among their friends that the coach may not.  According to (Loughead, T.M., Hardy, J. pg 310)   peer leaders were perceived by athletes to display the leadership behaviors of social support, positive feedback, and democratic decision-making behaviors to a greater extent than coaches.  The benefit of a football team is that it has a large number of players on the team so if even half take initiative and try to be a positive influence it could be 50 people. 

Conclusion:  Coaches need to be good leaders because they influence the whole team.  Players need to accept the role of leadership to help each other.  Everyone needs to remember that leadership is a process of bringing everyone together to achieve goals.  They must also understand that to have get influence they need to be a good example or people will stop following them.

Northouse, P. G. (2001). Leadership: theory and practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
 Loughead, T.M., Hardy, J. (2005). An examination of coach and peer leader behaviors in sport.  Psychology of Sport and Exercise 6  303–312

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