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Effective Leadership in Sports

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Photo: Brett Myers/Youth Radio

Effective leadership does not only require passion and being visionary, but it needs leaders who have adequate leadership skills and a strong ability to work under pressure. In contrast to managers, effective leaders must ensure understanding a sport organization’s internal systems but also the external environment. Leaders are constantly exposed to new and challenging situations what demands a high grade of flexibility and know-how.

In order to move their organization forward, today’s leaders need to apply transformational leadership. In comparison to the transactional model, transformational leadership is more than just meeting immediate needs. It is all about identifying the follower’s potential motivations and creating a common and shared objective. Transformational leadership underscores the importance of vision, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration in leadership.

When implementing change, leaders might face numerous challenges. One major component, which has to be considered carefully, is how to use power and influence most efficiently to accomplish goals. The basic approach of how using power and influence in an adequate way can be found in the five bases of power by French and Raven – Reward, Coercion, Legitimate, Expertise, and Referent. However, leaders should use their power and influence very carefully as there is also a high risk that followers do not understand and agree with certain actions, what could ultimately lead to a suffering of an individual’s or a team’s morale and a loss of productivity. In this context, leaders should also be aware of the most common obstacles to effective leadership and change management. In fact, it is still a leader’s personal characteristics that seriously affect the follower’s reaction to change.

The complexity of sport organizations and the challenge of organizational change, require professional training to ensure effective leadership. It seems that business environments of sport organizations are fundamentally different from those of 10 years ago. Organizations must try to avoid leaders experiencing an information overload, but to know exactly how to interpret situations and information most efficiently. In recent years, an increasing number of organizations have recognized this need to support leaders and established leadership development programs.

By Philipp Sauer, Ed.D.

Philipp Sauer received his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy.  Furthermore, he is an alumni of the University Of Liverpool, UK and the European University of Applied Sciences, Germany. His academic work mainly focuses on service and customer relationship management.

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