Can we teach our athletes to be better leaders? I think that we can and so does Richard Greenwald in his article, “Today’s Students Need Leadership Training Like Never Before” where he talks about leadership in academia. Greenwald says that we are “suffering a crisis of leadership”…which got me to thinking about how we can give our students a leg up after their time with us is complete.
The 7 pillars of leadership that we can share with our student athletes
1. Appreciation for lifelong learning. You can read any leadership book and it will tell you that if you’re not reading and learning, then you’re not a good leader. We can model this sort of behavior by letting our teams know what we’re reading or what conferences that we’re attending. They need to understand that college is just the beginning of their learning cycle.
2. Social and cultural capital. This requires a high level of alertness to your surroundings. If we could teach our athletes to survey their situations in order to see how different people are motivated, that would automatically make them better leaders. Some will need a quiet “atta boy” while other want public recognition for their efforts. Also, an effective leader knows the time to speak up and in contrast, to remain silent.
3. Creativity. We spend a lot of time on our teams talking about synergy…getting everyone on the same page in order to accomplish a goal. We tell them that they may have to sacrifice their own personal desires for that to come into fruition. But does that give them the tools that they need in order to be a leader? Or just a super awesome follower? There needs to be some balance there, I think.
4. Team building skills. Let’s agree to give our athletes the tools that they need in order to be team leaders…on our teams and afterwards. They need to learn how teams function, how to develop their voice, how to resolve conflict, and how to lead alongside others.
5. Ethics. This one’s a doozie…and it’s been around forever. Discussions of morality, right and wrong, good and evil, and justice fall under this header. Our athletes will have to decide what type of leader that they’ll want to be…and their moral fiber will be the backbone of that leadership type.
6. Self-reliance. The world is a different place than when most of us graduated. A lot of our student athletes may turn out to be entrepreneurs or consultants. Which means that they’ll need to be able to set deadlines for themselves, organize their day, and just generally be efficient with their time. And even if they do work for or lead a group of others, these are still highly desirable qualities.
7. Understanding of economics. Ugh, this takes me back to high school and my complete lack of understanding of this topic! But if they’re to be entrepreneurs, they’ll need to understand the basic laws of finding something to supply that others are demanding. And even in a company construct, those supplying effective and creative leadership will always be in demand.
I don’t know if we can do all of this in the course of a school year, but we’ve got our student-athletes for four years. What if we committed ourselves to giving them these traits over that course of time? What if the backbone of our coaching philosophy was a desire to create great leaders…and we had an organized plan in order to accomplish it?
I think it can be done. What about you?