What is Leadership in Sport?

Leadership is always an interesting conversation point when talking specifically about the sports realm. Coaches spend a lot of time discussing how to develop good leaders as a vital component to the success of any team. Leadership is also a discussion point around individual players and the characteristics or attributes that might be of significance in helping everybody achieve more. No matter the context, the simple fact is that having a good leader is a significant part of the success experienced by any team. When reflecting back on successes most players and coaches alike will point to guidance in no small part being the cornerstone of accomplishment.

Leadership is more than just one persons responsibility (Source: opensource.com)
Leadership is more than just one persons responsibility (Source: opensource.com)

Leadership is situational, and while one leader and their style will work effectively in one situation. It may not be guaranteed of success in another. In the fluid environment of the team sport this also means as the dynamic of a team changes, then so too can the required style of leadership change to meet the individual needs of each specific scenario. It is especially important to be aware of this situation because it will assist in the selection of the right leadership style, for the right situation and hence, the right team. This highlights a common problem often seen especially in the professional sphere of sports where sports teams that are mismatched with a coach, business model or team dynamic never enjoy success even though everything else is seems right.


When you add the very nature of the sports environment as being a highly competitive environment, even within teams, the necessity for a good leader, or leaders, becomes even more significant in creating a stable and positive atmosphere. Some of the more prominent negative events to happen within teams every season, at all levels of sport, sometimes in front of millions of television viewers, happen because of mistakes made in regards to poor choices.


While the starting point for good headship within a team might be the coach. To become a high performing team then leadership is needed to be demonstrated from within the players that make-up the group. Once the individuals within the team unit start to display these characteristics or attributes of leadership then the team will reach new levels of development and performance.


As mentioned already there are a number of characteristics and attributes associated with good leadership. Again, the specific make-up of these skills can be different depending on the situation and of course the team dynamic. These characteristics and attributes may include:


  • Motivation
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Honesty
  • Decision Making
  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Inspiration
  • Vision
  • Knowledgeable


There are any number of characteristics and attributes that could be listed above, but the importance of each aspect can be enhanced or decreased depending on the need at the time. A good leader is therefore hard to define and even harder to make leadership relevant over a long period of time. This is often cited as one of the main reasons why having a team that displays a range of leadership qualities amongst the group will ultimately bring longevity and ongoing success no matter the situation. This is because everyone can contribute at one time or another to the leadership gap in a team specific to the immediate need.


In looking for leader in a team, look for those characteristics and attributes that will complement the individuals within the group. A coach’s strengths and weaknesses need to of course be included within this consideration. Additionally, think about not just developing one individual’s leadership abilities through the appointment of a Captain, but also other leadership roles and then how can everyone display leadership for the greater success of the team.

Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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