First…there were the LEADERS. The autocratic, dictatorial, “my way or the highway” type leaders.
Then came the Leadership groups, leadership councils and leadership teams.
So what’s next?
There is a revolution in leadership coming: the way we think about it, the way we talk about it, the way we develop it is all about to change.
Let’s look at it this way:
Sport is one small part of society and as such is subject to the social trends and changes being experienced in other areas of life.
The way society is going, it is highly unlikely the old style, dictatorial, autocratic, “bully boy” head coaches will re-emerge as the dominant leadership style in sport. Their time has come and gone. They were a product of the times and of our limited understanding of leadership in the past. But things have changed: everything changes.
Business learnt this about 30 years ago. Sport has been a little slow on the uptake but we are getting there.
Then the concept of “decentralised” or “shared” leadership become popular – and again sport started a little behind the business community in embracing this idea, but over the past 10 years has grabbed the concept enthusiastically with the introduction of the now ubiquitous “leadership team or leadership group”.
Leadership Groups in Sport.
The “leadership teams” model which has become “the” trendy thing for all professional sports to put in place is becoming increasingly under challenge for several reasons including:
- Players not in the leadership team, will often pass the responsibility for their own standards and behaviours to the leadership team;
- Clubs rarely invest any where near enough time or money into developing the leadership abilities of all the individuals in the leadership team;
- Inevitably, some individuals on the leadership team find loopholes in the system with the end result of feeling they do not have to play by the same rules as the rest of the team;
- There is no evidence that having a leadership team makes a difference to on field performance. Sure it makes sense to have players “leading” as decision making on field in the heat of battle is an important part of all team sports. But teams have won and will win titles without the benefit of a great leadership group.
And let’s face it – the leadership team model has not worked.
Look at the newspapers – we still have problems with discipline, alcohol, drug abuse (social and performance enhancing), violence, sexual harassment in all professional sports every where in the world.
The leadership team model has given a voice to some players – maybe even provided a forum for some players to raise important issues and “play” leader but in the majority of cases the real leadership in the team is still the Board, the Owners, the CEO, the Sponsors and the Head Coach.
So where to next?
So what’s left? What possible direction could leadership go if it isn’t based on the old “Military General” style leadership model or the trendy “leadership teams” model?
Answer: leaders…..there won’t be any!Well, not in the traditional sense.
Think about it.
In the past we have talked about teams in terms of WE not ME.
Now we are looking at a prevailing attitude of ME and WE – the maximisation of the potential of each individual and the combining of individuals operating at their full potential into a functioning team.
In the past a team could carry an individual with weaknesses or frailties.
Now with the emphasis in professional teams on analysis and review, teams can not afford to carry any players who have weaknesses which can be exposed in competition under pressure situations.
It is the responsibility of every player to be operating consistently at their maximum possible potential: as players, as athletes, as people and as leaders – at training, on the field and in society.
Team sport is a thing of the past.
There are no true team sports at professional level left in the world.
At professional level with the emphasis on finding and exploiting every possible advantage, football, AFL, cricket, basketball, rugby, American football, baseball……all of them – have become individual sports wrapped in a team environment.
The critical leadership area now is for every player to be leading themselves – on and off the field -to the best of their abilities and to the limits of their potential.
How many times have we seen members of a club’s leadership team, in trouble?
Have a look at the back pages of your morning newspaper today. The press is currently full of them.
How can someone lead a team if they can’t lead themselves?
The way we have looked at the concepts of leadership and team has to change considerably: we are at the threshold of some revolutionary changes in how we think about both areas.
The challenge of course is how to best embrace this new leadership direction and enhance the leadership abilities of each individual whilst fitting it into a team environment and…..most importantly…ensure that it makes a measurable impact on performance.
Let me know what you think.