What Makes a Good Leader?

One of the hardest things about studying the idea of peer-based leadership is getting good solid research done without relying too much on questionnaires or surveys. An independent, observable set of criteria of which to study is absolutely required. The other issue with this is deciding who to study, or talk to in developing these criteria. The idea to interview successful coaches or teams is a popular one. For example Bucci, et al, (2012) interviewed 6 successful ice hockey coaches. The criteria for that identified them as successful seemed to be years coaching and awards won while doing so. But what determines a successful coach in these circumstances. Pure results do not necessarily mean that the teams, or coaches involved with those teams are successful at developing leaders. The good part is that there are definitions of what makes a leader, i.e. someone who influences individuals within a team to achieving team goals (Watson, Connole & Kadushin 2011, Bucci et al 2012). From here on in we need to find some definitions as to what makes a good leader in sport (Gould, Voelker & Griffes 2013).

If we cannot determine what makes a good leader then the ability to develop athletes into good leaders is severely compromised. While some people have the natural ability to lead successfully they still need development and practice to be effective (Gould, Voelker 2010). This affects mainly coaches who try to develop their athletes off the field as well as on it. The information that can come from solving this problem would mean that coaches could have a successful, proven model with which to work with in developing their players as leaders.

Without an independent, verified set of criteria to begin with, further study into this area will continue to be vague and debatable. This lack within this research area can only be solved by the researchers themselves. With an emphasis towards longitudinal case studies that are looking at independently measureable criterion, rather than simple question and answer surveys I think the characteristics that are required in making a good captain or leader, can be identified and further studied. However the characteristics need to be determined independently by the researchers. While consulting coaches who have a good record for developing leaders is important, as what Gould, Voelker & Griffes (2013) did, they still weren’t relying on independent criteria in determining which coaches to question or interview. They asked their associates for recommendations based on reputations as good leader development.

While it is a problem I think that it can be solved. Sport is such a big industry these days and when it comes to leaders at the top they are generally the big ticket athletes, the ones popular in the community at large. If sports spent as much money on developing their psychological  edge as they did on developing their physical edge then diligent, longitudinal research into this area becomes a distinct possibility. More research into what makes a good leader and how to develop that from a young age means coaches are much better equipped to do so. And if leaders are developed properly and learn what they need to learn early then sports in general will be the main beneficiaries. It can only be in their best interests to start looking at developing this field of study themselves.

Watson, JC, Connole, I & Kadushin, P, 2011, ‘Developing young athletes: a sport psychology based approach to coaching youth sports’, Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, vol. 2, pp. 113-122, viewed 20/08/2013, Routledge

Bucci, J, Bloom, GA, Loughead, TM & Caron, G, 2012, ‘Ice hockey coaches’ perceptions of athlete leadership’, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 243-259, viewed 29/08/2013, Routledge

Gould, D, Voelker, DK & Griffes, K, 2013, ‘Best coaching practices for developing team captains’, Sport Psychologist, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 13-26, viewed 16/09/2013, <http://zh9bf5sp6t.scholar.serialssolutions.com/?sid=google&auinit=D&aulast=Gould&atitle=Best+coaching+practices+for+developing+team+captains.&title=Sport+psychologist&volume=27&issue=1&date=2013&spage=13&issn=0888-4781&gt;

Gould, D & Voelker, DK, 2010, ‘Youth sport leadership development: leveraging the sports captaincy experience’, Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, vol. 1, pp. 1-14, viewed 20/08/2013, Routledge

Price, MS &Weiss, MR, 2011, ‘Peer leadership in sport: relationships among personal characteristics, leader behaviours and team outcomes’, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 49- 64, viewed 17/10/13, Routledge

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