August 7, 2012
Graduate Diploma in Business Studies (endorsed in Coaching) PAPER: 152.318 Sports Psychology and Leadership for Managers and Coaches ASSIGNMENT: 1 TOPIC: Research in the sport leadership area has been conducted under the general assumption that the type of leadership behaviour exhibited by a coach will have a significant impact on the athlete’s performance and/or on their psychological or emotional well being.
What evidence exists to support this general assumption? A predominantly transformational leadership style of coaching will significantly enhance (that coaches) athletes chances of reaching his/ her inherent potential, both within their chosen sport and as a direct consequence of such coaching, holistically as an emotionally strong, mentally tough, well balanced person.
This essay will deal specifically with coaching young adults and adults. How we as coaches can get the personal best performances out of this group. Fiedler (1964) stated in his Contingency Model on effective leadership. “The appropriate leadership style depends on the skill level, age, and maturity of group members.” [P 168]. When coaching children or junior athletes it is conceded that a predominantly transactional (as opposed to transformational) style of coaching approach would be most appropriate in teaching the fundamental skills, techniques and tactics required to play the chosen sport. A charismatic predominantly transformational coaching approach would be inappropriate in this example and several other circumstances. It is very much “horses for courses’ as a coach. The successful coach must decide on the balance required between transactional and a transformational leadership style, depending on his/ her personal relationship with individual athletes.
In this essay I will look at the transformational end of the coaching continuum. The area that I believe and will argue in this essay, makes the winning difference in top level, competitive sport. As a leading American Football Coach stated recently in an interview on Sky Television (1999), in response to the question “What makes an elite (Football) coach?’ He said, “Coaching has changed plenty over the years. Players are relatively close in terms of physical attributes, their strength, speed, specific skills, technical and tactical understanding of the game. As a coach its harder to get an edge in these areas. What hasn’t changed in coaching is the interaction with the players”¦. that’ll never change. It’s superior people skills coupled with being innovative as a coach that’s the key I believe, and that is what I strive for as coach with my team”.
This essay will strongly support and champion the transformational leadership style of coaching over that of a predominantly transactional approach. The following evidence, examples and history of sport leadership thought will look to further cement the introductory statement. At the very least, those predominantly transactional, authoritative and dictatorial coaches may well inwardly rethink their own coaching approach after perusing this.
Well over 2000 years ago, an ancient Chinese warrior “ philosopher Master Sun Tzu wrote in his compilings, later translated by Thomas Cleary in The Art of War (1988), “Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage and sternness. A general should have these five virtues” [P 45].
Little has changed today regarding the desired characteristics a successful leader requires, be it in business, sport or indeed war.
A healthy balance between these five core virtues is required by today’s successful coach to lead his/ her athletes and teams towards their individual and cumulative potential.
To this end, this essay will explore a predominately transformational leadership model, which successfully incorporates these five core virtues in the “Art of Coaching” as parallelled in “The Art of War” by Master Sun Tzu.
The most successful sport teams and athletes are coached by transformational leaders that genuinely care about their athletes, coaches that inspire and challenge their athletes on an intellectual basis. Coaches that recognize each athlete as an individual and interact with them as such. Coaches that are strong in character, adhere to high levels of personal integrity, trust and honesty, (Weese, 1994).
The transformational leader therefore presents him/ herself as a role model for his/ her athletes. The athlete can identify with their coach, share an agreed vision for themselves and their team with their coach. This leads to the athlete eventually thinking like their coach, showing plenty of initiative and having the confidence to see each challenge through to its successful conclusion.
In an interview with Wesse (1994), the world acclaimed leadership scholar, Dr. Bernard Bass commented “The effective leaders are those individuals who pay attention to the development of their people, inspire and stimulate them to improve the organisation and engage in a continually improving set of relations, both inside and outside the organisation” [P 183].
Dr. Bernard BASS at the Center for Leadership Studies at the State University of New York, believes that transformational leaders can be developed in sport coaching and management settings (Wesse, 1994).
Certain fundamental traits, BASS believes, can be quantitatively measured. He formulated his now renowned Multi-factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) to measure such leadership traits (Bass, 1985). This questionnaire itself was given further credence by Jermier (1993), who labeled Dr. Bass as the foremost authority in the area of leadership. From this research by Dr. Bass he set down four fundamental criterion to look for and/ or develop in today and tomorrows transformational coaches. They are: 1. Intellectual Stimulation The ability of the coach to awaken and excite the intellectual curiosities of the athlete.
2. Individual consideration Recognise the individuality of each athlete.
3. Inspirational leadership Inspire athletes to trust their own instincts in the pursuit of the coach shared vision.
4. Charisma A role model whom athletes can identify with intellectually and emotionally.
Collectively then, the coaches charismatic personality spreads through a sports team that is focused on an agreed vision. Performance of the individuals inspired by their coach will individually and collectively be measured in terms of output / results that will be well beyond expected, “acceptable” levels of achievement.
Acceptable levels of achievement equate to relative mediocrity. Mediocrity does not breed winners, it never has. To coach athletes in a predominantly transactional manner will only achieve such a result. No sports team will change and evolve, create new trends via inspirational and innovative ideas realised with this (transactional leadership) style of coaching.
The ” movers and shakers” in the sport industry are also the innovators, the leading edge practitioners who back themselves and their people to “have a go” and try some new resource or creative idea to turn a visionary idea into reality.
Rob Deans, the Coach of the Canterbury Crusaders rugby team stated in a recent interview (March 2000), that successful (sport) coaching involved the 80/ 20 rule. 80% of successful coaching of the Crusaders involved learning, adapting and utilising relevant systems to and within the Crusaders team. Having the right infrastructure in place was 80% of his job done. The transactional part of the job done, if you like. The crucial final 20%, comes from transformational leadership traits which achieve that sometimes-elusive competitive edge. The attention to every small detail and the ability to inspire, stimulate and lead each individual within the team. This helped transform the Crusaders along with similar veined leadership within the entire Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby Union infrastructure (Rob Deans “ Interview 2000).
Rob Deans’s coaching approach, a people centered approach if you like, is one example of a New Zealand Sport Organisation benefiting from a transformational leadership approach to management and coaching.
Significantly, I hope I have illustrated thus far, the benefits of developing transformational leadership traits in our coaching infrastructures and systems whom all contribute to the “big picture’. Without transformational leadership shown by our sports coaches, New Zealand cannot hope to consistently win at the elite level internationally. As Rob Deans stated, (Interview 2000), 80% of his success was as a result of the relevant systems he utilised (pure transactional leadership tasks), the final winning edge (20%) resulted from employing transformational leadership traits, that ability to motivate, inspire, lead and coach his people.
As Tremberth and Collins (1999) summarised, “the four major schools of leadership thought were identified and transformational leadership, as opposed to situational, behavioural or trait approaches, was identified as the most appropriate approach.
This is not only specific and significant in terms of what is best for New Zealand sport regarding the most effective leadership style, but this is consistent with Dr. Bernard Bass’s global findings. Documented in his multi factor leadership questionnaire as previously highlighted.
In 1997, the Hillary Commission formed a strategic management group to help sports identify leadership traits that could be harnessed, nurtured and developed. As a result, a seven step model was born with significantly Coaching/ Leadership was identified. It was deemed important for athletes to learn from an experienced individual, guide, coach or leader. Also innovation was identified. Trenberth and Collins (1999), [P 54].
These two factors mirror the work of leadership scholars and practitioners around the world. A transformational leadership style is the best way to coach any group of people.
Vince Lombardi was the coach/ manager of the Green Bay Packers American Football team between 1959 “ 67. In that time he fashioned an unparalleled successful record in American National Football League history. He was five times NFL Champion with his team including 7 final Super Bowl appearances. As a very charismatic coach/ manager and friend, he got the best out of his players and team consistently. He died at age 57 in 1970. His leadership legacy and legend live on.
In “The Timeless Wisdom of Great Philosopher Coaches” Walton (1992), this was scribed in Chapter One about Vince Lombardi “Demanding Excellence from his teams”.
The American Management Association (AMA) asked Vince Lombardi to speak to their 1967 annual personnel conference on the topic of what’s wrong today in the fields of business and government. “It mattered not to the listeners that he (Lombardi) had no experience in government and only a few years of experience in (sport) business as the general manager (and coach) of the Green Bay Packers (NFL American Football Franchise).
The audience knew that in personnel matters, there were few men to rival Lombardi. He knew human nature, he knew how to lead and manage people [P 1].
Larry Ray the University of Florida Softball coach stated on television recently. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” [ESPN Sports interview March 2001].
The best coach /athlete relationships have two way trust, honesty, selflessness, loyalty and as a consequence, permanent friendship as their foundation cornerstone items.
In sport as in business leadership, caring for your people is paramount.
Colin Marshall, then Chief Executive of British Airways touched on this point in an article in Management Magazine, titled Leadership, there’s one work that says it all “Caring. If people think you care, think you are emotionally committed to them, they will go to great lengths “ even extremes “ to get done what is necessary.” (October issue 1985) [P 59-60].
To conclude then, I believe that the adapting of such a model to any organisation/ team of people, would prove a sound tenet. Look after your people, empower them individually, then collectively, your people will ensure the ongoing success of the whole organisation (Bass, 1990).
As coaches our challenge is to learn the ways, the thought patterns of successful transformational leaders of today and of yesteryear. From former inspirational Presidents, the late John F Kennedy (USA) and Mary Robinson (Ireland). To the many texts authored or edited by Dr Bernard Bass, the acclaimed leadership scholar. To the great sporting leaders of our time, from the spiritually enhanced style of Phil Jackson, coach of the Chicago Bulls (5 time NBA champions, including 4 consecutive NBA titles 1995-1998), to the legendary straight shooting Vince Lombardi, Coach of the Green Bay Packers (5 time NFL Champions 1961, 62, 65, 66, 67). To leading edge New Zealanders, Gordon Hunter (former All Black Selector), Steve Hansen (former Canterbury Crusaders and Current NPC Coach); and Rob Deans (former All Black and current Canterbury Crusaders Coach).
Marry the winning transformational philosophies of these people and others, with your own unique personality and become your people’s choice as coach. Whose overall success will be measured not so much in trophies and championships, but in the realised individual and collective potential of your athletes, your people, your team.