How to Measure Leadership

To measure peer-based leadership a set of characteristics that determine whether someone is a good, or bad, leader need to be developed. A leader has been defined by both, Watson, Connole & Kadushin (2011) and Bucci, et al (2012), as a member of a team who influences their peers towards achieving team goals. What we don’t know is what makes a person good at achieving that influence.

One way to determine what characteristics are effective in leadership is to ‘borrow’ from leadership models in other fields.  Business is one field that is considered to be transferrable to sport. However it has been noted that further investigation into the viability of this is required before it can be used fully (Weinberg & McDermott, 2002). With this in mind it is more effective to develop these characteristics within a sporting framework from the beginning.

When Gould, Voelker & Griffes (2013) asked 10 coaches to define leadership they came up with characteristics that they believe good captains possess. There was only one item that more than half the coaches mentioned and that was that a good captain or leader is a good role model to the rest of the athletes. Other characteristics were mentioned but not agreed upon by the majority. Some studies have mentioned characteristics that have been accepted as good for leadership, but which haven’t been explored fully. It was found that the most important aspect of a peer-based leader was skill level (Price & Weiss, 2011).

The following characteristics are what are mentioned most commonly in regards to leadership effectiveness.

Characteristics List



Role Model



Shyness or timidness 

Good at the sport (Not necessarily the best)

Isolated (socially)



Popular among team-mates











A longitudinal study determining the effectiveness of these characteristics is required.  An objective observer of a team environment who is trained in sport psychology should be the examiner. Determining of who the natural leaders within the team are, with no formal roles present should make it possible to identify the characteristics that these individuals possess. Conversely looking at the individuals within the team who show no signs of leadership, or of being followed by the team, it should make it possible to identify what characteristics they determine. By attempting to match the characteristics to the list, looking at both positive and negatives we have a beginning of understanding whether these characteristics are relevant. Determination of the characteristics possessed by individuals would have to be done by both observation within natural environments, for example; training and games, by the examiner and interviews of the individual, their teammates and their coaches. A score of one to five for the strength of the attribute they possess would be suitable.

This method would have to be replicated on multiple teams and multiple individuals. It would be a long and potentially difficult experiment but the outcomes would be beneficial to sport. Determining what makes a good leader means we can determine how to teach leadership to our young athletes. We can also determine those characteristics that make for negative leadership and also attempt to teach our young athletes to not exhibit those behaviours as well. 


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