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Key Ways to Develop Leadership on Your Team

By Matt Logie Head Coach at Whitworth University Men's Basketball Coach and partner with NBC Whitworth Camps

                One of the greatest benefits of playing team sports is the way it teaches our young people to be a part of something bigger than them. It forces people into different roles and responsibilities in order for the organization to be successful, all of which is extremely valuable real-world training. Of the many roles that all team sports have, that of team leader is crucial to the success of your program. Therefore, having an intentional plan as to how to develop leadership and enhance the ability of your existing leaders to perform their duties is critical to reaching a team’s potential.
                The study of leadership is vast and dynamic. There are many competing philosophies as well as leadership experts that can provide an array of theories and expertise. However, my goal here is to simply share what I have found to be successful at the high-school and college level, within athletics. Leadership can look very different to different age groups and in different environments (business versus athletics, etc.) so I think it’s important to acknowledge the subset of the population I am referring to when I discuss leadership development.
                Here are some key steps necessary to developing leadership in your programs: 
A.      Identify Your Leaders
B.      Empower Them
C.      Be Intentional / Develop Weak Areas
D.      Acknowledge Great Leadership
                First, let’s discuss identifying leaders. Sometimes your leader will be your best player, which is certainly helpful to the maximization of your team. Usually these leaders are easy to spot and clearly can be a catalyst for success on the court. However, you may also find leaders among those in your program who aren’t as competitively successful. They can provide leadership in the form of the example they set, how they communicate, off-the-court actions, etc.
Secondly, you must empower them. There are times when someone has the opportunity to impact others; however, they lack the confidence to act on their leadership opportunity. This leader must be empowered to act and to have a voice in the locker room. Other times, people are leaders by default, usually due to their competitive role on the team - often times coupled with an “alpha” personality. These leaders are easily identifiable. However, you must be clear to empower them in accordance with your program’s values and goals. Unfortunately, there are times when these individuals lead in the wrong direction, which can be very difficult to overcome due to their combination of talent and personality.
Third, it’s extremely important that you are intentional. Take time to get to know your athletes, analyze both the competitive clout they possess to impact others, but also the type of personality traits they possess which can be utilized for good. Discuss the areas where they will need to grow in order to maximize their opportunity as a leader. Those with high character but low personality must be encouraged in specific ways to come out of their shell and grow into their role. Those with high competitive clout but lacking the program value structure or character development must first focus on following those program standards in order to lead by example.
Finally, and probably the most critical component I have found to developing leadership in our programs has been to acknowledge great leadership when you see it. Not only does this empower your current leaders, and affirm their actions, but it also sets an example for the young and emerging future leaders in your program as to what is expected and what positive leadership looks like!

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