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Leadership in Sport

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Photo: RON JOHNSON/JOURNAL STAR

Motivation and satisfaction are two key elements which drive both leaders and followers to high performance. Effective leaders are able to motivate followers to accomplish individual and group goals. In order for this to happen, leaders should appeal to the needs of their followers. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is five basic types of needs: the need to survive physiologically, the need for security, the need for affiliation with other people, the need for self-esteem, and the need for self-actualization. In any environment, it seems that some people are naturally more motivated than others. Achievement orientation is a simple approach stating that leaders should select only followers who both possess the right skills and have high levels of personality. People who possess high levels of achievement orientation are likely to set higher personal and work goals and are more likely to expend the effort needed to accomplish those goals (Hughes et al., 2012).

Goal setting is a key component in motivating followers to achieve high performance. It is imperative for leaders to set clear performance targets and help followers create systematic plans of actions to achieve those targets. Most research suggest that followers are motivated more effectively if leaders set difficult goals for them to achieve. In support of this, the Pygmalion effect occurs when leaders articulate high expectations for followers (Hughes et al., 2012). On the other hand, the Golem effect is when leaders have little or no faith in their followers’ ability to accomplish a goal (Hughes et al., 2012).  With both of these effects being widely used in various sport settings, leaders who desire to improve individual or team performance should set high but achievable goals to provide confidence and support for employees.

A reward is defined as any consequence that increases the likelihood that a particular behavior will be repeated (Hughes et al., 2012). Punishment on the other hand, is the administration of an aversive stimulus or the withdrawal of something desirable, each of which decreases the likelihood that a particular behavior will be repeated (Hughes et al 2012). Rewards and punishments are both ways to change the direction of an individual’s behavior. Leaders should be cognizant of their follower’s behaviors towards different rewards and punishments. All followers will not have the same attitude in similar situations, therefore it is important for leaders to know and understand their follower’s mindset. Leaders should use their creative skills to come up with different ways to reward or punish followers.

By Dr. Brandon Spradley

Dr. Spradley is the Director of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at bspradley@ussa.edu.

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