Which Leadership Style Is Best For Our Teams?


Whenever my team has struggled, it is usually because of weak leadership.  Of course, when my team has weak leadership, I have to hold myself at least partially responsible because it’s my job to teach my team captains how to lead.

Let’s look at psychologist Kurt Lewin’s different styles of leadership and how we can apply them to our teams.

Authoritarian Leadership:  These captains leave no doubt about who is in charge and what they want from their teammates.  Most likely, this type of leader won’t ask for input from the rest of the team, but will make decisions on their own and expect the team to follow…no questions asked.  This leadership style works best with those who have already earned the respect of their teammates.

Positives:  When it’s crunch time and the game is tied with only a few moments left, this type of leader will instill confidence in the rest of the group because they will have a plan of action.  This leadership style is also strong off the court and these leaders are very aware of any off the field “issues” and will keep things in order.

Negatives:  Authoritarian leaders are bossy, which will lead the followers to feel marginalized and not “heard”.

Democratic Leadership:  This type of leader is generally seen as the most effective.  They have a plan for how things should go (when they’ll have team dinners, study tables, recruiting visits), but ask for input from the rest of the team.  These captains get their teammates to work hard for them.

Positives:  Every situation isn’t “crunch time” and democratic leaders understand that there are many team situations when everyone’s input is necessary and appreciated.

Negatives:  This leadership style takes a little more time than authoritative, so it isn’t great when decisions need to be made…like now.

Laissez-faire Leadership:  These captains are afraid to make a decision, so they leave it up to the group.  The problem with that is everyone in the group may not be prepared (or even want) to make decisions for the team.

Positives:  Everyone would have the opportunity to lead and if your leadership is in your younger classes, perhaps they’d be able to step up to the plate (though I’ve never seen that happen).

Negatives:  I suppose you’ve already figured out that I’m not a big fan of this type of leadership…if it can be called leadership.  The problem with this style is we have “leaders” who are averse to leading.  Without defined roles, and players willing to perform within those roles, the team will flounder.

In my opinion, the best style is a combination of Authoritative and Democratic.  Whether the mix is within one person or a combination of players, the ability to embrace the opinions of their teammates while making the tough decisions when necessary is essential in team leadership.

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