Do you want to have a cohesive team with motivated athletes – and great coach evaluations from your athletes? The you cannot just “be yourself”, because that is a “hit and miss” strategy that we know rarely works.
So how do you become an effective leader-coach? Not an easy question to answer since there have been literally thousands of books published on the topic of leadership – just go and do a search at Amazon (you will find 2,060 “products)! Or you can try and Google “leadership if you dare:)
Here are the three most practical and useful leadership models that I have encountered in 15 years of teaching leadership to coaches:
- Situational Leadership Model: Should I be a dictator or a democratic leader with my team? According to Blanchard & Hersey, it depends on the situation – specifically it depends on the motivation and competence of your athletes do perform the task you are asking them to do (a drill, strength training in the gym, not go out the night before a match, etc.). The less motivated and competent they are the more you have to be a dictator; the more motivated and competent they are, the more you can simply delegate and not have to supervise them closely. The model is explained in more detail here. This was the model I used to educate coaches in the old French Canadian Level 3 Theory National Coaching Certification Program – you cannot go wrong using this model.
- Leadership Challenge Model: Kouzes & Posner conducted an interview-based research study into the leadership behaviors and practices of top business leaders, and found that the top leaders exhibit key behaviors. They published a book called the Leadership Challenge which is a read well worth the couple of dollars needed to purchase a used copy of the book. Coaches who took the old English Level 3 Theory completed their Leadership Practices Inventory and set goals and strategies to become better leader-coaches.
- Multidimensional Model of Sport Leadership: Findings from Chelladurai’s research into leadership in sports are less accessible since most of them are contained in academic journals. A Google search will turn up some journal abstracts and perhaps some research articles that have used his model to study different aspects of sport leadership. Shona Kerr and I developed and presented a workshop on Optimal Coaching of Female Athletes based on his model at the World Squash Federation’s 2003 Coaching Conference in Cairo. A copy of the presentation can be downloaded here (fourth publication in the list). Chelldurai’s most important finding was that coaches must take into account the leadership preferences of there athletes (i.e., for a more democratic or more dictatorial communication style) when they decide how they will lead their team if they want to maximize team performance and satisfaction – and those coaching evaluations. The slide is from Weinberg & Gould’s Foundations of Sport & Exercise Psychology, the text I use to teach Psychology of Sport at Smith College – previous editions can be found used for about $5.
Application for Squash Coaches:
- Just “being yourself” will probably not result in optimal leadership of your team.
- There are easily accessible, simple tools to improve your leadership skills and behaviors.
- Your success as a leader-coach depends heavily on paying attention to the needs of your athletes (versus advancing your own agenda).