Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Leaders learn by example and understand that it's all about team, not individuals

Mike Jacobs column/courtesy of Evansville Courier Press

I have always been struck by how surprised spectators are when they see an athlete up close or in street clothes and comment "they looked so much bigger on the field."

I think that happens less because someone needs new lenses on their glasses, and more because of the way that player may have carried himself.

Leaders tend to give off an aura or carry a presence of a larger than life figure, and where you don't have to be 6 feet tall to be a leader, you do need to carry yourself in a fashion where people look up to you.

All Pro Dad recently had an article posted on its website that referenced the height of leaders. Of 43 American presidents, only five have been below average height; the last of those (Benjamin Harrison) was elected in 1888.

Regardless how tall your athlete may be, leadership might have less to do with height and more with self-confidence.

There are certainly some athletes described as "natural leaders," but the reality is that leaders are made and not born. Genetics can affect an athlete's physical attributes — inheriting parents' size, strength or speed — but leadership attributes and intangibles are generally encouraged and enhanced in the home of that athlete at a very early age by their parents or on the playing field by their coaches.

How can you develop leadership skills that offer a level of self-confidence to enable children to become leaders on the playing field, in the classroom or in the workplace?

Set the proper example: Players are going to feed off the direction they get at home, in classrooms or in the locker room. This is their initial reference point about leadership and direction. Think about the core values that you stress, and make sure you provide a sound example when it comes to commitment, honesty, respect and trust. Good leaders practice what they preach and are consistent with decisions.

Selfless service: To be a strong leader, young players need to learn how important it is to be able to follow as well. The best players make their teammates better and give of themselves, and that's the same case for leaders. The more players see their coach help and assist others, while also placing more emphasis on group goals rather than the individual goal, it is easy for others to follow suit.

Stress humility: The best leaders buy into the fact that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and it is hard for those to follow if they don't see their leaders acting in that fashion. The most effective leaders don't participate in activities just for themselves. They're in it to see success for everyone. Leaders place their personal needs behind that of the group.

Lead the right lifestyle: We always stress with our players at the University of Evansville to "play the game the right way." That has a number of connotations, from the high standard of how we try to play tactically and technically, to how we conduct ourselves on and off the field. The players need to see their leaders not being willing to compromise themselves for short-term gain, and when their role models lead a lifestyle that sets an example of goodness in all facets of their lives, it is easier for players to have that same level of expectations themselves.

"My Bad": Tell your players that they have to be ready and willing to admit when they are wrong. The best leaders look to solve problems, rather than to assess blame and point fingers. Strong leaders are quick to apologize and are open to critical feedback rather than to make excuses.

I do believe that leaders are made and not born. Before they can be given a certain level of responsibility, young athletes need to be provided the proper role model and example.

1 comment:

  1. When it comes down to it, self-confidence is really a big factor for leaders. A leader shouldn't think that he can do things alone. Getting the support of his peers is also important in order to accomplish tasks faster.

    Alexander Tiedemann