Leadership is more than attaching a title to a name, like many high school coaches do with the oldest players on their teams. Being tagged a “leader” just because you’re a senior or a starter doesn’t automatically garner you respect and influence (Check out STACK’s collection of articles on Leadership.)
The ability to lead comes down to the ability to influence others. I tell you this for only one reason, to clarify what leadership in the real world is all about. I’ve been asked many times to speak to athletes, both formally and informally, about everything from training and nutrition to drugs and relationships. I’m not a drug counselor, nor am I a licensed therapist, relationship or otherwise. So what is it that draws people to me for advice about subjects in which I have no expertise: influence.
Most of what you’ve heard or read about being born a leader is wrong. Though some people have magnetic personalities, you don’t have ooze charisma to impact others by influencing them to make different decisions and choices.
Recently I spoke with a high school athlete about a challenging teammate who didn’t listen to him, despite the fact that he was a captain. I explained to the player that instead of telling his teammate what to do, he should try to look at the situation from another perspective and talk to his teammate on a regular basis to establish trust. The teammate would come to understand that the captain had his back and could help him reach his goals. The very next day, the captain came in and told me that our strategy was already working. His teammate was more responsive, starting to listen and more receptive than he had been in more than two years.
Like the athlete in this example, you too can make immediate changes in your leadership approach by:
- Realizing your ability to lead is based on how you help others
- Influencing teammates to make choices that impact their lives and benefit all parties involved
- Trying to help your teammates, working with them to find ways to engage your skillset for their benefit.
Want more advice on becoming a team leader? See the 3-part series: