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Always be leading

Recently, colleague Ryan Cook and I undertook some research with 40 coaches from around the world across five different sports, from international to club level. Our objective was to analyse their thinking on leadership and performance. Detailed data on this to follow, but one statistic that stood out was especially notable:

Only 45% of respondents felt their players had the leadership qualities to achieve the team’s goal.

It’s widely believed that good leadership is a precursor to success, so this stat shows that better development is required. The question is then: How can better leadership be developed within a group?

If a person could get a 6-pack and achieve a perfectly toned body through reading articles, conversation and reflection, how many of us would have that body! But to be strong and stacked, realistically you need to put in the hours at the gym. A principle constant across all aspects of life. So why should we believe that developing leadership will come from reading, reflection and conversation alone?

In the same survey the coaches were asked how they went about developing leadership. Responses included: weekly reflection, involvement in decision-making, keeping them informed, division of roles and role-modelling. All sound methods. But what about learning by doing? England rugby coach, Eddie Jones recently recounted the story of how, as a teacher, he told his boss that he wanted to become a great coach and to do that he wanted to go and do a Masters in the topic. The boss responded by telling him, ‘rather just go and coach.’

In my recent stint in Melbourne working with a rugby team, we sought to develop leadership in a very short space of time. Did we get it right? Possibly not, but I certainly learnt that if you are to really build leadership, you need to get people doing – however small the tasks may be.

Suggested tools to develop leadership:

Create groups

There’s power in allowing peers to learn from each other as well as in providing real-time feedback on their given tasks.

Create tasks

Identify challenges that exist within your team and co-create tasks with your leaders that will help overcome them. For example: ask them on a weekly basis to inspire the team, provide analysis on an opponent, or present ideas for growth on the environment, organise events etc.

Create trackers

Much leadership development is ‘nice’ but not effective, often because results are not being tracked. A team I worked with recently created a few trackers that they would evaluate every week. Two of them were: ‘How quickly we return to flow on field’ and ‘Quality and quantity of conversation on the field’. Each week they would assess how well they enabled these and what they could differently to increase both.

Create feedback

Most individuals don’t know what they need to do to become more effective leaders. So create a small process to allow for honest and direct regular feedback.

Create stimulators

Bring in speakers, ideas, and articles to keep challenging your leaders’ way of thinking. This way they will see that leadership is not an aside, but something that needs to be worked on all the time.

To reiterate, all the coaches’ techniques mentioned earlier are good and should be encouraged, but never at the expense of creating regular and frequent opportunities for developing leaders to by practicing leading, with feedback on their progress. This is in turn offers huge opportunity for teams to improve, and in my opinion, is the way forward.

In conclusion, if your leadership is able to facilitate the best decisions possible in the moment, they are on their way to significantly impacting whole team results.

We will continue to release more findings from this study over the upcoming weeks.

Please feel free to contact me should you want to discuss your ideas.


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