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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Effective Leadership and Successful Teamwork

The effectiveness of an individual as a leader and the creating of successful teamwork have been and still are the concerns of many organizations and educators alike. Vince Lombardi (O’Brien,1987) was so right when he stated that “the world needs more positive and inspirational leadership”. This holds true in every walk of life - business, government, and sports.

In order to come to understand what effective leadership is and how it is related to creating successful teamwork one must study the interrelationships between people and how a common entity or cause can bind these people towards a specific goal. According to Pat Riley (1993) the common entity or cause that binds people together towards a specific goal is called the “Core Covenant”. To understand the dynamics of leadership and the dynamics of teamwork “the self” should never be considered.

“A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand” - Abraham Lincoln

Joe Paterno (1989) stated that Vince Lombardi was right when he stated “Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The one’s that win get inside their players and motivate them”. Effective leaders are those individuals who understand interrelationships between people. They understand what motivates others into action. Teamwork is a mutual commitment of action striving for a common goal. This mutual cooperation leads to a win/win philosophy. This dynamic philosophy is the bases of all positive human interaction. With a win/win philosophy all parties feel good about the decisions made and feel committed to the goal at hand.

A Win / Win philosophy can not come about without respect and trust within the integrity of the team and its leadership. Without trust, the best we can do is compromise; without trust we lack the credibility for open, mutual learning and communication necessary for real commitment (Covey, 1989). People will only respond to trustful leadership. A trusting leadership shows that everyone is striving for a sense of being needed and wanted and feeling they belong. When a leader promotes a strong sense of teamwork, the team will have a feeling of pride and loyalty (Van Fleet, 1983).

Being a Marine I know enough French to know what “esprit de corps” means. The United States Marines Corp exemplifies this pride and loyalty with our motto “Semper Fidelis” which means in Latin “Always Faithful”. Teamwork to a Marine is the key to success and morale which is based on trust. This trust is knowing without a doubt that everyone in your unit is giving a total commitment to the objective at hand. This trust is what builds loyalty and pride, and ultimately successful teamwork (USMC, 1978).

“Trust Is The Lubricant That Makes It Possible For Organizations To Work” - Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders

To General Colin Powell, this kind of trust between a team and its leadership is considered a “Sacred Honor” based upon a group gathered together and taking a bold stand and pledging total commitment with one heart and one mind towards a common cause (Roth, 1993).

This kind of “Sacred Honor” needed for effective leadership and successful teamwork is made concrete by an unselfish commitment to common beliefs and visions. Anthony Robbins (1991) states that “leaders are those who live by empowering beliefs and visions and teaching others to utilize their capabilities”. A belief or vision is the key ingredient for motivation and the catalyst for action

According to Joe Paterno (1989), as a leader you have a duty of a responsible person to have the courage to take these beliefs and visions and motivate others to act upon these beliefs and visions with the same conviction and passion. The beliefs and visions are the binding positive factors that create motivation to act. They are the mental thoughts that are responsible for physical action and change.

“Positive Thoughts Create Positive Actions” -Coach George Dutton

The leader is responsible for being the catalyst for change that is needed to make beliefs and visions achievable in the future. The leader is the one who motivates others to share the same beliefs and visions and work towards a common goal (Nanus, 1992).


As we have seen, I have touched upon the factors of effective leadership and successful teamwork that are most prevalent. Factors such as a win/win philosophy, trust, loyalty, faith, unselfishness commitment, beliefs and visions, and motivation are the foundation of effective leadership and team work..

I would like to acknowledge the great leaders past and present that have influenced my foundation and thinking of what I feel are the important factors influencing effective leadership and successful teamwork. It has been a passion of mine to try and understand what makes people do what they do as individuals and how these individuals act as a cohesive unit within a group or team.

Many of the quotes and materials utilized were a compilation of various forms of media I have come across over the years and some are from personal experiences.


Covey, S.R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: A Fireside Book.

Nanus, B. (1992). Visionary Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey - Bass Publishers.

O’brien, M. (1987). Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi. New York: Quill / William Morrow.

Paterno, J. (1989). Paterno By The Book. New York: Berkley Books.

Riley, P. (1993). The Winner Within. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Robbins, A. (1991). Awaken The Giant Within. New York: Summit Books.

Roth, D. (1993). Sacred Honor: Colin Powel, A Biography. New York: Harper Paperbacks.

Schwarzkopf, H.N. (1992). It Doesn’t Take A Hero: The Autobiography. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

USMC. (1978). Guidebook for Marines. Quantico, VA: The Marine Corps Association.

Van Fleet, J.K. (1983). 25 Steps to Power and Mastery over People. West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing Company, Inc.