Cultivating leaders has been on my mind lately. I’m trying to make sure that I do my best to create the best and most amazing leaders that I possibly can…I want my athletes to be rock stars!
What does an awesome leader look like? According to this post, great leaders follow their values, are confident in crisis, and are well connected on the team.
During the course of a normal season, with its ups and downs, every team requires a leader who can handle crisis. That crisis could be a teammate dealing with a death in the family, interpersonal drama on the team, or even key injuries. Check out the different ways leaders can help or hurt when your team is going through a tough time.
- Value themselves above others. They always seem to find someone else to blame for their problems and the problems of the team.
- Lack confidence, so they’re defensive. Problem leaders feel that things are out of their control (“Susie doesn’t like me”, “Coach won’t play me because she hates me”, etc.) and will lash out to associate blame with anyone besides themselves.
- Don’t connect well with their teammates since they’re always looking for someone to blame for their problems. This “leader” will say things to their coach like: “Susie’s not working hard enough in practice, that’s why we’re losing” or “Amy is doing who knows what on the weekend, that’s why the team isn’t playing well.”
- Value others and are compassionate. Even in those cases where blame can be put on a teammate, an awesome leader doesn’t blame and never tries to do publicly what should be done privately.
- Remain calm and focused because they are confident. They aren’t the start of gossip or negative energy on the team…and when they hear it, awesome leaders can nip it in the bud. They are able to handle team issues with a sense of calm and poise.
- Are very connected to their teammates even while holding a position of leadership. Awesome leaders see themselves as part of the solution, so they don’t complain to their coach after the fact…they talk it out with their teammates right then and there. Since they’ve made such good connections with their teammates, their critique is well-received.
As we talk to our teams about picking captains or recognizing leadership traits in one another, this would be great information to give them.
I’ve done it all when it comes to team captains. The team picks. The coaches pick. A combination of both of those. I’ve even gone without captains. I believe in team leadership and the athlete’s ability to manage each other and keep each other motivated through the normal highs and lows of a season.
But how do we stack the deck in the favor of team captains who will, you know, actually be good leaders? According to How To Build A Team That Works by Tony Robbins, there are some things we can help our teams look for when voting and characteristics our captains can aspire to once they’re voted captain.
Some questions we can prep our team with before they vote for captains:
- Can they do the job? Do they have the respect of their teammates? Because if their teammates aren’t willing to follow them…can they actually be called a leader?
- Will they do the job well long-term? No matter the sport, the season is long. No matter how well your team is doing, you’re going to have some downs that go along with the ups. No matter how motivated the team, they’re going to have flat practices. Can your team captains help the group through the tough times?
- Are they the right team fit? I talked before about personality types and how important it is to know your team’s dominant personality and what it could be missing. If you’ve got a strong group of leaders who aren’t keen on getting the younger athlete’s opinions, you may want to stack the deck for your more collaborative personalities.
Here are qualities of good team leaders:
- Envision an Outcome: Can they help the team come up with season goals and keep the group on track? A lot of us coaches think this is all up to us, but I’d disagree. We’re not with our teams more than we’re with them. We need the captains to help us here!
- Understand Others: Here I go beating the personality type drum again, but this is crucial. People are different and respond to situations differently. Our team leaders can help us with team conflicts by understanding this dynamic.
- Inspire Others: I’ve had players who inspired their teammates through their words, they could get everyone fired up for conditioning…which is almost a miracle. And I’ve had athletes who were inspirational without opening their mouth. They basically shamed everyone into working hard because they worked so hard.
- Understand Themselves: I don’t want captains who are pretending to be someone they’re not. For example, you don’t want your quiet leader trying to lead a rallying cry at game time. They’ll be stressed out and they won’t come across as believable to their teammates. My general advice for captains is, “Do you”, with the caveat that they’re doing all of these other things.
Giving our athletes the tools they need to be leaders worth following has got to be a top priority for coaches.
One of the coaches I work with always says that we’re the CEO’s of our sport…we’re running the show. So when I ran across this article (Why Every Company Needs a Leadership Strategy), it made me think about all of us head coaches who work so hard to create a winning culture, environment, and winning expectations.
We know we need leaders. We know we should train them, but how? Beyond that, do our athletes know our coaching priorities? What will consider to be “success” at the end of the season? Is it only winning? Does winning without honor count? Do they know why they’re on your team instead of at another school? If not, we’ve got to create an information/training strategy that ensures that the same information is passed down year after year, team after team.
How about amongst your staff? Is everyone on the same page as far as what you’re looking for? Not just positions, but what about personalities? Do you need more gritty players? Or maybe enthusiastic players? How will you tailor your recruiting schpiel to increase the odds of filling your team needs…both tangible and intangible?
There are three requirements for an executable leadership strategy with our teams:
- A leadership selection system, to ensure the team gets the leaders it really needs. How do you pick your captains? Does the team vote? Do the coaches decide? Does the team understand the requirements of being a team captain? Are they able to opt out?
- Leadership development efforts that support leaders so they can adapt to the team’s needs. Once you’ve got team captains, what training is involved? How often do they meet with the coaching staff? Are they given decision-making authority? (It could be something as small as deciding where to eat after the game.)
- A succession management process that identifies, accelerates, and supports the identification and accelerated growth of the next generation of leaders. That’s super business-y sounding, but it’s true. We’ve got to identify future captains and groom them so they’re ready once they’re elected. What would that process look like? Would it entail formal or informal training?
Personally, I need to think a bit more critically about how me pick, educate, and cultivate leaders on our team. For many reasons: to make sure we’re being fair, to make sure the staff isn’t blinded by personal bias (sometimes you just love a player, but they’re not ready to be a captain), and to make sure the team buys in to their captains.
I’ll be back next time to discuss a communication strategy from this same article that will help us make sure the entire team is on the same page.