Leadership in Sport

Leadership is different than management. I recently read something that basically defined management as the adjustment and fine-tuning of what you did yesterday for better efficiency today, which won’t be as good as tomorrow. Basically a machine trying to do more with less for lower costs.

That’s not leadership. It’s more personal. Leadership takes us on a journey and allows us and encourages us to become more of that which we already are. We’re all different, but we’re also the same. Leadership in sports is formally manifest in numerous ways – in coaching, in team captains, in presidents, in directors, in CEOs. Of all the leadership theories I’ve read, it’s pretty well agreed upon that servant leadership is the highest level of leadership.

The highest and truest sense of a leader is one who truly serves those whom are led. The servant leader is the person Jim Collins describes in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t (affiliate), one of the first business leadership books I can remember reading, and one that really got me thinking more about leadership theory and how leaders act.

Collins refers to the servant leader as a “Level 5” leader – someone who is humble, exhibits professional will, takes responsibility when things do not go well, gives credit to others, and acts as more of a doer than a talker. In sports, you see many examples of servant leaders – the coaches that take the blame for losses and who give all the credit to the individual players who contributed throughout the week in practice and in the game, the athletics directors and the team presidents who take the blame for poor outcomes and who pass along the credit when things are going right, careful to never be in the spotlight. But this is not all that servant leaders do – they have an intense focus on being more remarkable and disciplined than everyone else they compete against and they get their teams to rise to the challenge. They are relentless in their pursuit, but also pay close attention to their people and what they need to succeed as individuals.

Another piece of advice I read somewhere about leadership that made sense was that leaders share about themselves and their vulnerabilities, they build trust. The servant leader let’s himself be known so that others are more comfortable in also letting themselves be known to their leader.

I’ll be posting more on the topic of leadership in the future, so come back soon. Thank you for reading Bill’s Sports Business Blog!


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