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4 LEADERSHIP TRAITS ALL ATHLETES SHOULD DEVELOP

When I do workshops for teams or for a group of coaches on Sports Leadership, one of the first activities I do is called, Finding the Leader in the Room.  This is an interactive exercise that helps define what a leader is.   As I have done this activity with various groups, many of the same ideas about Leadership and what a Leader is comes to the forefront.

  • A Leader is a charismatic person who is able to make good decisions.
  • A Leader inspires others to reach a common goal.
  • A Leader leads the way.
  • Leadership is the ability to communicate assertively (note, not aggressively) and inspire others.
  • Leadership is influencing others.

Not one of the above definitions is more correct than any of the others. In fact, all of them play an important role in the leadership of a team. The common factor is that leadership involves more than one person.

Many people believe that the best leaders are born that way, and that if you weren’t captain of the team you’re out of luck when it comes to the ability to be a leader. However, just like training to run faster, hit the ball further, dribble to ball quicker, leadership qualities and traits can be trained.  They can be trained with and within the team.  There are many leadership traits and qualities of great leaders. I have identified four leadership traits that every athlete should possess and can be developed by all members of a team.

John Maxwell, a leadership authority, has mastered the art of asking questions. As my mentor, he has taught me to ask questions in order to learn and grow, connect with people, challenge myself, improve my teams, and develop better ideas. Questions have literally changed my approach to sports and leadership.

By asking questions on Dependability, Integrity, Courage, and Initiative one can step out of the comfort zone and start thinking and acting like a leader.


Dependability is defined as the quality of being able to be counted on or relied upon.

For the athlete, it means you can be relied upon by your teammates and coaches to put forth your best effort in order to achieve peak performance every time you step on the field or court. You are willing to support the team and coaches publicly on all matters that relate to the overall performance on the team.  When you have areas of disagreement you respectfully bring them up when meeting with the individual or coach to share your concerns.

Questions to ask to improve the leadership trait of Dependability:

  • Do I have the habit of being early for every team function?
  • Do I put forth my best effort in every activity?
  • Do I model respect of my coaches, teammates, officials and opponents?
  • Do I show my disagreement with others quickly or do I look for the right opportunities to voice my concerns?
  • I can show I am a Dependable teammate by doing this following over the next 10 days….

Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Teammates with integrity are honest and truthful in what they say or do. They will put honesty above all else. If they make a mistake or miss a deadline, they own up to the mistake. They don’t let teammates take the fall for their mistakes or take the blame for something they did. Finally, teammates with integrity keep their promises even if it takes extra effort.

Questions to ask to improve the leadership trait of Integrity:

  • Do I own up to my mistakes?
  • Do I keep my word and do what I say I am going to do, every time?
  • Do I stand up for what I believe in, even if it is the unpopular choice?
  • If you find yourself in a conflict of interest, do you get out of it as soon as possible?
  • I can show Integrity by doing the following over the next 10 days….

Courage is defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty; to have strength in the face of pain.

The Marine Corp define Courage as “… what allows you to remain calm while recognizing fear. Moral courage means having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and to accept blame when something is your fault. Physical courage means that you can continue to function effectively when there is physical danger present.”

Questions to ask to improve the leadership trait of Courage:

  • Do I face my fears or walk away from them?
  • Do I face my fears alone?
  • Do you ask yourself, “Why am I scared?” By asking the question you can face the fear.
  • What have I learned about myself when I faced my fears?
  • I can show Courage by doing the following over the next 10 days…

Initiative is defined as the characteristic of originating new ideas or methods; ability to think and act without being urged; the action of taking the first step.

Team leaders are resourceful in getting something accomplished without the normal material or methods being available.  Leaders with initiative are always aware of the situation and notice if something is not right, and then figure out how to make it right.  In competition, unexpected situations will arise; having initiative allows for the unexpected to seem normal.

Questions to ask to improve the leadership trait of Initiative:

  • Can you identify areas where you can help your team or coach without being told?
  • Do you read for self-improvement on a daily basis? Staying mentally alert improves initiative.
  • Do you ask questions? Great leaders ask questions.
  • Do you identify opportunities to help your teammates become better?
  • I can show Initiative by doing the following over the next 10 days…

 

 

Christian DeVries is the founder and executive director of VOLTA Sports and Leadership Development Group. VOLTA offers a unique three-pronged approach to leadership development for those in sports, those who like sports, and anyone who can gain insight and direction from sports. Though interactive workshops, peer mentoring, executive coaching and an eLearning platform, the VOLTA team can help propel your team to achieve peak performance in today’s competitive environment.  For more information, click here: VOLTA

About the Author Christian DeVries

As the founder and CEO of VOLTA Sports and Leadership, DeVries has developed the premier coaching, recruiting and sports leadership program called, AOS – The Athlete of Significance. The AOS Platform is a comprehensive eLearning platform for coaches, student-athletes, and parents who are engaged in, or are getting ready to start, the college recruiting process. The AOS Program is not your standard college advisory program. AOS will go beyond just placing a student-athlete in front of college coaches. AOS will help the student-athletes prepare for the ultimate goal of presenting their significance to the coaches.

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