Developing Leadership NOW: How it Impacts Your Success

Coaches are constantly working to develop their coaching philosophy, their plan and road map for how they run their program.  When developing that strategy, it should contain thought to how to develop and grow leadership within their program:  student-athletes, staff and they themselves.

Developing leaders and leadership is what gives our coaching philosophy “legs,” empowers it into action.  Your players, staff and you yourself each have strengths and capabilities that will allow you an opportunity to succeed.  All the resources, strengths, talents, and knowledge – without proper leadership – will fail.  We see, every year, coaches that have had great success lose their jobs.  Winning a conference championship, advancing in the NCAA tournament does not guarantee longevity anymore.  A conference championship and trip to the NCAA’s one year, followed by a slightly better than .500 season and a trip to a non-NCAA tournament, followed by an under .500 year can mean a pink slip.  Those coaches did not suddenly become “less smart”; forget what they did a short time earlier to win.  What happens?  Leadership can play a role.

Leadership strategies are continually developing, especially in the area of student-athletes.  There are many philosophies in our student-athletes and staff’s types of learning styles.  The same is true in the instruction of different leaders and the personalities of different generations of leaders.

Every team is different.  Every team needs different types and styles of leaders.  Each season produces different challenges to that leadership model.  Continually developing varying leadership skills is important to addressing the ever-changing leadership model.  This is equally as important as staying current with any other coaching philosophy.  X’s & O’s, scouting, training have less relevance if the program lacks leadership and direction.

Your leadership strategy, the strategy you use to grow leaders, teaches what kind of leaders we need, what skills they possess and clearly states how our leaders conduct themselves, both as individuals and within the team unit.

To understand and develop the leadership of an organization, several factors should be addressed:

  • The quantity of leaders needed, what does your team need?  More than just “Captains.”  Identify the non-basketball related weaknesses of the team and address them (if possible) with leadership, varying strategies and leaders.
  • The qualities desired in selection — What are the most important attributes, which players provide broad leadership ability, are there leaders with a deep background within the team?, is there experience?
  • The skills and behavior – Innately, do team members already possess skills and behaviors that are needed to implement the goals and vision of the team and create the desired culture?  This will become imperative when the team sets up their Standards of Behavior.
  • The collective leadership capabilities – team leaders working together within the team.  How each works with all team members to push forward the accepted behaviors, the self-policing, carrying on the agreed upon covenant (promises team members commit to) while adapting to the changes that occur throughout a season and how they support the guidance of the coaching staff and/or head coach.
  • The desired leadership culture – One of inclusion of all team members, bringing everyone into the fold.  A culture that breads responsibility and accountability amongst team members, fostering opportunities for the growth of other leaders (especially younger student-athletes) to continue the on-going leadership culture across multiple years of the program.

As coaches, we tend to devote our teaching of leadership and focus on only the first three of these ways of describing leadership. Omitting collective leadership and leadership culture, we have overlooked what makes leadership come alive within a team and the factors that often determine whether our ultimate success will be achieved.

A good leadership strategy takes all of these factors into account.

Very few coaches have an explicit leadership development strategy. Is it any wonder that without one, coaches find that they don’t have the leadership talent they require?  Find that success comes and goes from year to year?  And, unfortunately, find themselves searching for the next stop on the coaching carousel.

Adapted From the Center for Creative Leadership


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