The rivalry of Ohio State and Michigan goes well beyond the sports fields – it extends into the classroom, and in this particular example, into leadership research. Both schools conducted study on what qualities comprise a leader. They both compiled huge, long lists of the behaviors a leader could show, and began to try to categorize those behaviors into categories. And, both schools narrowed it down to two categories, coined by Ohio State as “Personal Consideration” and “Initiating Structure.” These terms are now largely referred
to as Concern for People and Concern for Product, as seen on Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid. Essentially, these studies showed that leader behaviors can either be directed at developing relationships and showing concern for followers, or be directed towards reaching an end goal, to accomplishing the task. Michigan initially stipulated that those two behaviors were indirectly linked, meaning if a leader was good at one, they were bad at the other. They were wrong, and eventually adapted to see these items as separate, so that a leader could be good at one and not the other, be good at both, or be bad at both. That basic premise is what leads to Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid.
While this leadership theory does not relate itself perfectly to effective leadership, it starts taking a step in that direction. If a leader has both concern for the product and concern for the people it is considered the optimal leadership style. The leader who cares only for production and not for the individuals involved is considered a drill sergeant. The leader who cares only about the people, and not about the organization’s effectiveness is called a “country club” leader. Those who lack concern for both product and people is referred to as impoverished.
This does relate to football quite well – a coach like Bill Belichick would very much be considered a drill sergeant. A coach like Tony Dungy might be considered a bit more of a balanced leader. And, those coaches who only care about the players, and not about the outcome, and more well suited to younger levels of football, where the stakes aren’t quite as high and individual empathy is more important.
I would highly encourage anyone interested in leadership theory to look up Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid, and read through their questionnaire on determining concern for product and concern for people.
The next installment of leadership posts is going to focus on what the researcher Katz referred to as Skills Theory. His basic premise was that instead of focusing on personality traits, as the last post discussed, we should focus on skill sets. The strengths of an individual would be indicative of leadership ability, or lack thereof.
Katz broke down skills into three different categories: conceptual, interpersonal, and technical. Conceptual skills were essentially the ability to see the big picture, to understand how items fit within the larger scheme. Interpersonal skills were the ability to develop and maintain good relationships. Technical skills were the ability to do the more detailed, inner-workings of a process, like installing car parts on an assembly line.
The end result of Katz’s theory was that those with great conceptual skills, but lacking the technical skills, were better suited to upper management type positions, executives who didn’t have to work in the trenches, but who could fit the different pieces of the process together. On the other hand, people with great technical skills, but lacking conceptual skills, were better suited to be in the front lines, working with the details of the process. People who
possessed all three skill sets were best suited for middle management, acting as the bridge between the technically inclined and the conceptually inclined.
One point of note in Katz’s research is that not only did his system on finding out an individual’s skills look at their ability, but also at their desire for that particular skill. He didn’t just ask if they were good at technical work, he asked if they liked technical work. This does make it difficult to interpret results at times, as what someone is good at is not always what they want.
How does this relate to football or sports in general? A head football coach, according to Katz, would need to be very conceptual, focused on the bigger picture. A position coach, on the other hand, would need to be more technically inclined, able to install the small pieces and details of the system. A coordinator should possess both conceptual and technical skills, as it will be their job to make sure the two match.
While Katz’s research does provide more insight versus the trait theory, it really is not a good indicator of leadership ability, rather, just what sort of position a person is best suited for. The upcoming theories help delve deeper into leadership and how to analyze effective leadership.
This entry marks the first of a few entries on leadership theories. The idea is to present a few different theories on the topic, and allow readers to take what pieces they like from each. No one theory is definitively right or wrong, or even comprehensive in nature, but they each allow some insight into what makes a good leader.
This entry is going to talk about trait theory, which is based on a very simple concept: leaders possess certain traits. This line of research and discussion gained momentum around WWII, as there was an interest in what made a good military officer or leader. Initially, traits were very straightforward; being tall, strong, attractive, having a deep voice and other similar items were considered beneficial for leadership. These traits certainly help cast a good first impression, however, it is quite obvious to see that they do not carry muster much beyond that without the good to back them up.
Trait theory has since that point developed into more of a personality inventory. Tests like the Myers-Briggs and NEO-PI identify the personality traits of an individual, which help indicate what roles the individual would be well suited for, including leadership. Many organizations use this for incoming employees, team building, role distribution, and other purposes, and with some level of success. It is a good tool. However, most leadership experts will tell you in isn’t necessarily a great test of leadership.
The next few entries will discuss some more leadership theories that will help better uncover the sort of leader an individual might be.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or email me at adrayson@SportPerformanceU.com.
It’s always difficult as a coach to try to dictate what a parent’s role should be in their child’s athletic career, particular as a coach who has no kids of his own. But, over the years, I’ve encountered a number of great parents, and a number of parents who seemingly hindered their young athlete more than helped. I figure I would sum up each set of parents from a coach’s perspective.
The great parents encourage their child to participate, and support them in their efforts. They attend games, cheer for the good plays, and show their appreciation for the entire team, not just their own child.
The hindering parents try to coach from the sideline, and make it clear that he or she knows more than the coach, referees, and players. They openly show their frustration towards their kid after bad plays. They believe they can devise an off-season plan, skill development program, and psychological profile. They force their athlete to play particular sports or to do particular drills. They badger coaches about playing time, position, and points. They find it to be their role to break down the athlete’s performance after each game, and dole out punishment and rewards based on game performances.
What you’ll notice is that the paragraph for the good parent is the shorter of the two. There are many more ways to do things wrong as a parent than there are to do things right. So, my only advice would be to keep it simple when it comes to parenting an athlete. Enjoy the ride with them, and encourage them to do their best (both their own child and the team) –simple as that. Don’t try to coach, analyze, dictate, or meddle. Just enjoy. From what I’m told, parenting is difficult; sport is one area where a parent should just sit back and enjoy!
SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.
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