I typically stick around and watch my kids practices. Our boys chose a different path from swimming which my husband and I have been a part of for over thirty years. At a recent practice the coach yelled out after the kids were finished their competing drill “losers pick up balls, the winners get to watch.” My son happened to be on the winning team that day, and he watched as the other kids picked up balls. When we got to the car, I told my son always help pick up the balls. That’s democratic leadership in sport.  Do what is right, not what is easy. As an athlete, your attitude and behavior outside of competition can have just as much impact on the team as your athletic ability. Coaches who want to get the most out of their athletes should emphasize the importance of being a leader and exhibiting good character at all times.

Advantages of Democratic Leadership

One of the most over-looked aspects of good leadership is that you are not succeeding if you don’t make the people around you and your teammates better.  Good leaders develop their followers. They provide feedback and reinforce positive efforts in others. A successful athlete encourages teammates and challenges them to improve. A successful leader develops the leadership capacity of followers so that they will be able to share the leading and eventually step up into the leadership role.

leadership in sport
Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

Tim Tebow is a leader. He had the incredible power to elevate his team as proof through his iconic promise speech after the Gators loss against Ole Miss. Where the leader goes, the group usually follows. The Promise. 

Great Sportsmanship is necessary. Great athletes play fair. They don’t cheat and they own up to their mistakes. A great leader, like a great athlete, doesn’t get out of control in the heat of competition and doesn’t gloat when they are victorious. One of my favorite moments in a tennis match is the final handshake in the end. Win or lose, you are to congratulate your opponent and show your strength of character. 

Simon Sinek says “that the best leaders eat last.” Many of the characteristics required to be a successful leader interlock with one another. Whenever you call upon them, do so as another step on the ladder to your over arching vision. The start of a leadership journey, use it as a constant source of motivation.