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Building Leadership Within Your Team

How do you develop individual leaders within a team? That question is a major obstacle for me in my profession as a college coach. I spend a lot of time discussing, researching, and practicing leadership. As a leader you want to be able to develop leadership on your team. Ideally, you would want a team of leaders.

In order for the team to operate at its highest level, each one of its members must take care of their responsibilities. If a coach can develop leadership characteristics in each member of the team, the team will be able to perform at a high level.

Institute A Culture

Developing and instituting a culture is one of the most important aspects to team development and leadership development. The first step in instituting a culture is by creating a sense of community. Having a sense of community does not just “happen.” Forming community bonds and relationships must be intentional and emerge from particular environmental conditions.

Part of instituting a culture is getting everyone within the team to feel that they each have some ownership in it. Members of the team will feel more invested if they are given “the keys to the castle,” which is a term used to describe members of a team being given freedom and the opportunity to take on real and meaningful opportunities.

Part of this development of community and ownership is by instituting that there is no one captain, but a team of captains. It is very hard for one or two members of the team to fill all the leadership roles that there are. Part of this sense of community is also getting each individual to understand that there success directly influences the success of the team. By making everyone feel that they have a say and responsibility in the success of the team is key. Coaches should realize that all members of the team should take up leadership roles. Therefore coaches should allocate time and effort to the identification and development of leadership roles.

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Identify Leadership Roles

Leadership development needs to start with the identification of leadership roles. Tactical, motivational, external, and social leaders have been identified as leadership roles within a team. By identifying who fits in what roles, the team is able to lean on the correct leader for different situations. Members of the team also learn to become leaders by doing leadership activities.

Every member of the team can occupy a leadership role, and one leader can occupy multiple leadership roles. By naming one team captain, you are eliminating members of the team that may have leadership qualities in areas that the team captain does not. Another way to identify leadership roles is to identify each individual player’s leadership traits, leadership attributes, and leadership behaviors, or the lack there of.

Developing Relationships Between Coach and Player

Relationships might be the most important aspect of a team. In order for a coach to institute his culture, develop leaders and ultimately get his team to perform at its highest level, he must earn their trust.

The quality of these relationships is believed to underpin other group processes such as group cohesion, development of goals, and communication of role responsibilities.

The relationships between the coach and the players must be defined. The overall general relationship of authority figure and mentor must be established. This is important so that there is no gray area on who the “boss” is. But not every individual relationship will be the same. The coach must understand what type of mentor each individual player needs to be successful. By forming these individual relationships the coach shows his commitment to the player and the team.

Commitment is an important aspect to group sucess because athletes who feel that their close relationship with the coach is going to last are more likely to readily invest in working closely together with other team members and in developing confidence in the team's capabilities to perform collective tasks successfully. By having a well-defined coach/athlete relationship based on commitment to each other and the team will help to keep communication open and free.

Building a team of leaders is a very difficult thing to do. But by first establishing a sense of community and ownership in the program, you start to build the foundation for what is expected and allow the members of the team to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. You must identify leadership roles and give the players the ability to lead themselves. By not having one set leader or captain you force the team to take responsibility of their own and the team’s success. Finally, forming relationships with the players is paramount in individual and team success. By showing that you are committed to the player, the player in turn becomes committed to the team. The higher the quality of athlete leadership, the better the team performs. Individual leaders can be developed on a team by implementing these strategies.

From GameChanger and Andrew Morgan. Morgan is an assistant baseball coach and recruiting coordinator at Murray State University. He has been coaching baseball at various levels since 2004.

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