What I’ve Learned About Effective Sports Leadership
I have never thought of myself as a leader. I usually tend to lead without a big voice and let my work do the talking. I am by no means shy, just calculated. I used to think that there was only one way to lead and only one style of leadership. In sports, being a leader meant you had to be the biggest, strongest, and fastest. Those are attributes people gravitate toward, naturally. Those are the things that make leaders. Like King Leonidas in the movie 300. While we all wish we were as chiseled as Gerard Butler, being a leader is not defined by one set of characteristics nor does it require a specific type of talent. This year I have been put into a leadership role, something that was challenging and exciting. I have been in leadership positions before, but not of this magnitude. As I reflect at the halfway point of our season, there are three things I have learned about leadership that are essential to any leader no matter the job, experience level, or pedigree.
Maintain Your Poise
Every person has emotions and in a leadership role your emotions impact the emotions of those around you. In a stressful situation it is easy to get worked up and frustrated, but often that has a negative impact on those you are leading. As a leader, you set the tone. If the tone is negative, negative results will follow or equally frustrated employees will further damage the situation. For example, during our second game of the year (my second game in this role) we lost our internet connection and could not sell tickets. Go figure, my job is to sell tickets and it’s the one thing we could not do. On the inside I was stressed, but on the outside I tried to remain calm. This helped everyone work toward a solution and eventually we got through it. Everyone thanked me for staying calm and not losing my cool. I did not realize it at the time, but everyone was grateful for my response to the situation. That was not easy and I hope it never happens again, but it helped me learn this very thing- good leaders maintain their poise. Always.
This one is something you need to survive as a leader, especially in a sports career. Passion is vital to your personal success and your ability to get out of bed in the morning, but also in a leadership role. Passion allows us to show our authenticity and reasoning for all the decisions we make. It’s easier to motivate someone when they see your passion rather than trying to bribe them or fake it. Being passionate pulls everyone up and makes for a more enjoyable environment.
I am a huge fan of former UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. If you need some leadership advice, he is your guy. He has a few great quotes on patience, but one that really resonates with me. He says, “I worry that business leaders are more interested in material gain than they are in having the patience to build up a strong organization, and a strong organization starts with caring for their people.” Caring for your employees is often overlooked, as a lot of businesses only care about the bottom line. I have been fortunate to be led by some great leaders who care about people. Your employees should be the foundation you build upon because they are executing your vision. Anything worth doing requires hard work and the patience to let that unfold. One of the best compliments I received this year was a staff member telling me how patient I was with them. In a leadership role patience goes a long way because it tells that person you are willing to work with them and that they are worth it.
Doug Condran is the Box Office Manager for the Lancaster Barnstormers and the founder of Baseball Desk. Follow him on Twitter @Dougmore_23