Wearing the "L" of Leadership
10 Qualities of Great Leaders
Not everyone can be a captain and wear the “C”, but everyone can wear the “L” of Leadership. It is not always the best player, but it can be. It is not always the most vocal, but it can be. It is not always the veteran or senior, but it can be. Leadership is a choice and a set of skills to develop.
We have heard time and time again – “lead by example”. This often refers to the physical aspect, but it can also mean leading through emotional and mental stability as well. Here are 10 qualities of great leaders.
1. Have Confidence
The number one trait for leaders is confidence. If you have confidence in yourself, you will instill confidence in your teammates.
2. Are Driven by Purpose
Leaders are tuned in to the team purpose and overall vision. They put this purpose ahead of personal achievement and accolades. They make sacrifices if necessary, and work within the team concept first and for their own personal gain second.
3. Listen, thus Learn
You don’t normally think of action-oriented leaders as being good listeners, but their ability to practice the art of listening helps them learn what they need to know about the task at hand. It is also a sign of respect to the coach to listen and engage fully when they are trying to teach. Fellow players will respect this from a leader and follow suit. Practices will become more efficient and purposeful.
4. Look for Opportunities
Look for ways to lead. They can be big or small. Not everyone is a natural leader. Providing encouragement and energy is everyone’s responsibility. When someone comes off the court, encourages them - “good job”, “you’ll get the next one”. Leaders support one another as equals, regardless of current skill level.
5. Are Trustworthy
Players who can be counted upon by their teammates are the best leaders. They are the ones who show up to every practice. They arrive early to every game. They can be counted upon in key moments. They are not necessarily the oldest player(s) on the team but demonstrate maturity in their approach to the game. In elite sport, you often hear them described as “a real pro”. Someone who comes to everyday ready to go to work. Teams made up of trustworthy players do not need to have a lot of rules.
6. Are Physically Prepared
Leadership is demonstrated in how you practice, how you train, and how you take care of your physical body off the court. Abusing one’s body with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco off the court, is something a leader does not participate in. They take pride in being an athlete, and their actions support that identity.
7. Remain Calm
Great leaders show intensity but do not get over emotional. There is a difference. Intensity translates into taking your game to a higher level of focus, effort, and effectiveness. Emotional reactions rarely translate to positive outcomes. If you are out of control, you are not able to control the game around you.
8. See the Whole Court or Field
Leaders have an ability to step outside of their world and see the whole court. They notice when a teammate is down and needs help. They recognize when someone makes a great play and deserves praise. Leaders notice when the coach requires help to reign in the team and to regain control of a situation. Others are too self-absorbed in their task, to take the attention off themselves and lead.
9. Peak at Key Moments
Leaders are physically and mentally prepared for those key moments when their best performance is required. Most coaches will agree, that in critical matches, “our best players have to be our best players.'' Think of Tiger Woods at the Majors, or Rodger Federer at the Grand Slams. Kobe Bryant in the final minutes of a game.
10. Have Humility
One of the greatest traits of leadership is humility. The opposite of humility is hubris – meaning to have excessive pride or self-confidence. Great leaders are humble and allow others to shine. They have enough confidence in their own ability and a certain amount of “healthy narcissism”, but the overall focus is on the team and on deflecting attention to others.