The Art – and the Sport – of Leadership

Posted by on Oct 10, 2012 in ComLead, Organizational Leadership

The Art – and the Sport – of Leadership

Get your head in the game. We made the big leagues. That proposal was a swing and a miss.

There’s a reason why we hear so many sports metaphors in the corporate world: both cultures focus on teamwork, goals, and competition. And while sports metaphors may be losing esteem the business world, professional athletics are still a valuable metaphor by which we can understand business life. Coaches and team leaders are experts on motivating teams, developing talent and achieving goals. For business or sports leaders looking to build strong, dynamic and successful teams, it’s certainly valuable to understand the connections between leadership for sports and business.

 Leadership – On and Off the Field

Structure is an essential consideration in leading any kind of team. This means making sure each member’s role is clearly defined and is assigned to take advantage of that individual’s strength. Challenging employees to develop their skills is important. But just like a football coach wouldn’t assign a lineman to kick a field goal, business managers should think twice before assigning a public speaking engagement to an employee who prefers behind-the-scenes work. When positions are filled by the right people, a manager can trust her team’s expertise rather than micromanaging minor tasks.

In business and sports, strong teams are trained together. They develop goals, roles and norms as a unit rather than individually. When issues arise, leaders should tackle issues as soon as possible. Athletic teams suffer when they wait until game day to address problems. While conflict management may be uncomfortable for some business leaders, solving problems as they arise helps the team stay strong when deadlines arrive.

Athletic and business teams can have very different goals and strategies for structuring teams, but in managing team conflict, some interpersonal techniques are universally valuable. Strong leaders help the team develop the skills to listen, communicate and build consensus amidst conflict. They create an environment where new ideas are valued, and they are open to experimenting with new strategies. In times of conflict, strong leaders are comfortable doubting their own infallibility and encourage others to do the same. This means they agree that the best solution may not be their own, and can look to others for better ideas.

 Psychology for Sports Leaders

Business and sports leadership emphasizes many of the same principles; yet already we can identify situations where these solutions aren’t ideal for coaches or sports teams. Should coaches always look to team members for new ideas? Are there times when a more authoritarian approach is appropriate? The emerging field of sports psychology offers answers to such questions.

Are you in the Buffalo area and interested in building sports leadership skills? On October 24, 2012, sports psychologist Albert V. Carron, PhD, will share insights on group dynamics, team goal setting and more. Joanna Jacob, an MS Communication & Leadership graduate and coordinator for this event, explains sports psychology “is an extremely valuable area of study for sports professionals,” and highlights the tools this presentation will offer to help leaders build cohesion based on group dynamics. Visit our events page for more information on this event, which benefits the American Cancer Society.

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