While calls for effective leadership are needed in the coaching profession, there remains a gap regarding the type of leadership style that coaches in sports settings may use to influence student-athletes toward achieving peak performance through coaching excellence to improve one’s win-loss record, enhance student-athlete grade point average, and sustain retention/graduation rates.
The proposed qualitative case study explores Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches’ viewpoints and perceptions of how the six characteristics of servant leadership (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) are linked to successful coaching and their extent of influence in coaching practice.
Specifically, the proposed study aims to explore behaviors and styles used by four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches through the perception of 48-80 female student-athletes. The instrument used will measure specific servant leadership qualities and the proposed inquiry will seek to discover if the extent of perceived characteristics of servant leadership by women is NCAA Division II head basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) are related to the extent of one’s performance. The rationale of this study supports the need for quality athletic coaching leadership at the collegiate level. To achieve improvement in athletic performance, it may be necessary for coaches to use leadership styles or engage in coaching practices to which athletes are most sympathetic.
This dissertation is dedicated to my mother and the servant leadership legacy she left on me after 25 years. The servant-leader qualities she portrayed were her caring for and willingness to help anyone, kindness toward others, her smile, her heart, and her strong work ethic that lives in me today. She was a simple woman who continued to give to her children and to others while supporting and encouraging my audacious goals. In her, not only did I find endless love, unconditional support and encouragement, but also I was able to internalize her servant leadership qualities and aspirations that continue to be a powerful force in me long after she left my presence.
To date, my personal and career trajectories, as well as my inspiration to succeed in life, are firmly anchored in the invaluable life lessons learned from my mother, to achieve goals and positively change humanity I must let my leadership qualities and work ethic be guided by my service to others.
Servant Leadership: An Analysis of Women’s Basketball Coaches From the Peach Belt Conference
In Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball, coaches are prominent figures that serve as teachers, mentors, ethical practitioners, role models and leaders, who attempt to articulate and manipulate the mission and systems taught to influence others (Hicks & McCracken, 2010). In the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) successful and unsuccessful athletic coaches are often critiqued on one’s win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates. The NCAA was established in 1906 and serves as governing body for athletics for more than 1,300 colleges, universities, conferences, and organizations (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.).
Even more significant is the fact that athletic coaches bear similarities and differences relative to business, spiritual, political, educational, or military leaders (Krzyzewski & Phillips, 2000). Leadership scholars are in agreement that coaching and commitment cultures are now increasingly replacing the command, control, and compartmentalization orientations of past leadership models (Kets de Vries, 2005). Additionally, existing sports scholarship demonstrates that the role of the leader is critical and often transparent on athletic teams where organizational success is measured by team success and coaches are held accountable for the teams’ performance (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989).
Over the years, one area that has gone largely unexplored from a leadership perspective isare a the context of athletic coaching and the uptake of diverse leadership styles. Opinion still remains divided on whether the act of coaching is basically an evolved form of leadership (Kemp, 2009), or even more explicitly, the preferred leadership styles that could be adopted and implemented by professional coaches in athletic coaching (Hicks & McCracken, 2011).
Although the role of leadership in athletic coaching has been equated to what normally transpires in traditional business settings (Krzyzewski & Phillips, 2000), it is not yet clear whether athletic coaches should employ a leadership style that provides substantial attention to the people, systems and processes through which operational control is exercised (Walker & Bopp, 2010), or whether they should focus energies on nurturing cooperation and mutual commitment (Hicks & McCracken, 2011). Even though Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) is a quantitative instrument, this is a qualitative study supported by quantitative data.
To achieve its overall objectives, the proposed qualitative case study will compare how well Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaching methods align with Dr. Jim Laub’s (1999) six characteristics of servant leadership through the use of Laub’s OLA instrument and by conducting semi-structured interviews. Qualitative inquiry is a process of documentation and description, with the view to not only identifying patterns, concepts, and relationships between concepts but also creating theoretical explanations that explain reality (Welford Murphy & Casey, 2012).
A qualitative case study methodology will be employed to gain a holistic overview of the relationships and differences between preferred leadership styles, perceived leadership styles, influence in decision-making, satisfaction with participation, and job satisfaction as described by participants, with the view to exploring why servant leadership characteristics may be needed to excel in coaching sports. An Organizational Leadership Assessment will be employed requiring each student-athlete to rate their coach using Laub’s instrument and an interview will be conducted with the four head coaches to investigate how the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches operationally use the various characteristics in coaching.
One important aspect of a coach’s leadership is the selection of coaching styles and methodologies used as a leader; that is, the way in which a leader makes decisions, builds relationships, teaches skills and strategies, organizes training and competition, maintains team discipline, assigns roles and positions to athletes, communicates, makes efforts to satisfy athletes’ needs and creates an appropriate motivational climate to maximize the team concept and influence team cohesion and production (Heydarinejad & Adman, 2010).
Leadership techniques that apply to the workplace are similar to those found in sports. When everyone on a team understands the direction and approach the leader/coach has developed, then success is much easier to obtain. This driving force of competition in sports as a coach and player emphasizes the need for more effective leadership.
In full context, the topic of leadership has been an in-depth topic of speculation for decades focusing on the effectiveness of leadership theories. Various leadership models center on different theories, different ways of evaluating effectiveness, different approaches for studying leadership, and how it forges and affects organizational outcomes and effectiveness (Wren, 1995). Each theory provides an opportunity to understand leader-follower relationships and methods to use when attempting to motivate others (Avolio & Yammarino, 2008).
New ideas and theories underlie research into leadership styles in business, nonprofit organizations and other organizations, bearing strong similarities with leadership in coaching, the focus of this study. This study will focus on exploring various response themes taken from the 48-80 female student-athletes surveys and four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches interviews conducted to look for patterns and similarities in the data. The notion of applying servant leadership behaviors and styles to an athletic environment may enhance coaching leadership by offering insights into successful leadership practices used in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball.
Available leadership literature demonstrates “a shift in this new century from a traditional autocratic and hierarchical style of leadership to a leadership style that promotes teamwork, sense of community, shared decision-making, and an ethical caring of qualities with the goal of improving others’ personal growth” (Spears, 1998 p. 34).
This qualitative case study will explore student-athletes ’ and coaches’ perceptions of how the six characteristics of servant leadership (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) are linked to successful coaching. To achieve improvement in athletic performance, it may be necessary for coaches to use leadership styles or engage in coaching behaviors to which athletes are most receptive (Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett, 2002).
Servant leadership has immense relevance to the coaching profession based on the six characteristics outlined by Dr. Jim Laub. Authenticity, which is a fundamental characteristic of servant leadership, will improve the level of creativity among coaches. In this case, servant leadership infuses the spirit authenticity, which is also referred to as originality implying that coaches should come up with original methods of training and stimulating others. This characteristic will encourage coaches to create new methods that result in new skill-sets in the coaching profession leading to improved creativity that is passed onto their student-athletes.
Originality will help in creating a generation of enhanced methods when compared to current methods that may be inefficient or not motivating student-athletes to maximize athletic performance. Servant leadership will change leadership practices that are exhibited by coaches from various forms of leadership to servant styles of leadership implying that coaches will aim at adding to the values of their student-athletes, rather than limiting them (Hammer, 2012).
This shift in the type of leadership will project similar changes on the student-athlete leading to gradual transformations of the student-athlete who may seek to become a future coach. Such a gradual transformation will accumulatively create a culture of embracing servant leadership among the subsequent coaches and the evolvement of the entire coaching fraternity.
When developing student-athletes, coaches may want to embrace the ability of mentoring student-athletes by providing them with opportunities that will demonstrate structure and guidance in order to succeed. Ongoing student-athlete development through nurturing relationships and an opportunity to diverse circumstances will expose student-athletes to various lifestyles and cultures leading to diversity and liberal mindedness that is repeated through interacting with others (Burns, 1978).
When building a community, coaches seek to enhance new relationships among student-athletes while influencing others on citizenship. The entire creation of harmonious relationships will encourage student-athletes to unite and embrace teamwork during practice and game sessions. The anticipated teamwork will enable students to learn from each other as a community of learners through shared values, beliefs, emotions, and active engagement in learning together from each other by habituation.
Coaches will learn to provide leadership to student-athletes by exercising influence when correcting behaviors during training sessions (Bass & Riggio, 2006). Coaches should learn to exhibit positive encouragement toward their student-athletes motivating them to take risks by providing direction in order to attain one’s dreams (Bass & Riggio, 2006). As coaches may discover with providing leadership, positive encouragement will facilitate one’s personal growth and development on the creation of measurable, attainable, and achievable goals (Safire & Safir, 1990).
While coaches make efforts to expose student-athletes to increased opportunities, they are exposing themselves to other coaching practices and sharing leadership styles to learn from. This exchange of ideas leads to blending skill-sets and integrating them into one’s repertoire resulting in innovative training methods in the coaching profession. As a result, the exposure will be pivotal toward improving student-athletes skills and diversifying the methods used by coaches.
The relevance of servant leadership theories may be based on applicability and one’s willingness to embrace the servant leadership theory and rewards that may result from the application to the coaching profession. Theories may only be relevant if they are applicable to student-athletes during athletic performance. There may be a need to determine whether coaches are willing to abandon current leadership styles to embrace new forms of servant leadership practices.
Today, basketball rates as one of the all-time most popular sports worldwide (Kellett, 1999). Women’s basketball has evolved greatly and needs more research in the leadership field. While the history of women’s basketball began shortly after Dr. James Naismith created the original game and rules in 1891, it is documented in the literature that the roots of women’s basketball can be traced back to Senda Berenson, born on March 19, 1868, in Vilna, Lithuania (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.). In 1892, she worked as Director of Physical Education and Instructor at Smith College (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.).
She trained at the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Senda Berenson was hired at Smith College in1892; James Naismith at the International YMCA Training School in nearby Springfield Massachusetts hired her one month after the game of basketball had been invented (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.). At the institution, Berenson not only established a successful Swedish gymnastics program for female college students but also organized and managed athletic competitions in such sports as volleyball, fencing, field hockey and basketball, leading to their integration as core disciplines in the institution’s extracurricular activities (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.).
Berenson read about the new sport of basketball and, upon visiting Naismith to learn more about the new game and the values it could teach student-athletes, she initiated the first women’s collegiate basketball game on March 21, 1893, between Smith College first-year and second-year female students (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.). Berenson, who advocated for women’s sports, had her thoughts inclined toward the limitations and restrictions, which would interfere with a female to avoid the unwanted physical play of the men’s game. To restrict the physical limitations, Berenson authored new rules first published in 1899, with Berenson becoming the editor of A.G. Spalding’s first Women’s Basketball Guide two years later (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.).
Berenson died on February 16, 1954. Three decades after her death, Berenson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as the first female ever to be enshrined (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.), reflecting the important role she played in introducing female basketball competitions at the collegiate level. During the early phases of basketball establishment, the words “gender equity” did not exist, and female athletes encountered division and prejudice; however, the evolvement of women’s sports began to excel with accomplishments by female athletes and significant advancements toward the empowerment of women’s opportunities in sports (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.).
The modern women’s movement achieved a historic victory of gender equity on June 23, 1972, when Title IX was enacted as part of the Educational Amendments (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.). Global and regional leaders created policies on women, gender equality, and targeted critical gender equity issues in sports to protect female rights (Brake, 2010). Title IX of the United States educational amendments prohibited sex discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funds and unlocked opportunities for significantly increasing support for female participation in sports throughout high schools and colleges in the United States (Blumenthal, 2005).
According to the official website of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, “Title IX requires women be provided an equitable opportunity to participate in sport; female athletes receive athletic scholarships proportional to participation; and that female athletes receive equal treatment of scheduling of games and practice times, practice and competitive facilities, equipment and supplies, publicity and promotions, access to tutoring, recruitment of student-athletes, and coaching” (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.). Title IX has notably increased coaching salaries for women’s athletic teams (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.).
Over the years Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches have had to battle gender equity issues and lack of practical opportunities to develop leaders, in large part due to the underrepresentation of women not only as coaches but also in other leadership positions in women’s sports (Walker & Bopp, 2010). Interestingly, many coaches have been unable to focus solely on one’s leadership style, watch videos, read books, study periodicals, attend clinics or colleges, and sharpen skills to best develop what is needed.
These shortcomings notwithstanding, Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches have an obligation to develop the capacities of female college athletes and provide a leadership approach that is oriented toward high satisfaction levels and peak performance for female student-athletes. It is therefore of interest to identify coaching leadership methods and styles used by Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches to achieve successful coaching leadership practices.
The problem is that many Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches are not equipped with the qualifications, knowledge, or experience of various leadership styles to excel in coaching sports in today’s field of athletics (Cunningham, 2008; Gallwey, 2000; Gilmore & Gilson, 2007; Ige & Kleiner, 1998; Kilty, 2006; Nicks & McCracken, 2010). Researchers have confirmed that a coach’s win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates may result in negative outcomes, specifically when coaches do not use various forms of leadership to adapt to different athlete personalities, situations that occur throughout the season, and when providing direction to followers.
Presently there is a calling for new models of leadership in sport settings, which emphasize:
- athlete empowerment,
- democratic behavior from coaches, and
- less emphasis on traditional autocratic fear-based coaching models (Jamison, 2005).
Modern-day athletes prefer leaders who:
- seek input regarding team decisions,
- provide positive feedback and recognition,
- exhibit sensitivity to athletes’ needs in and out of sports setting, and
- demonstrate an athlete-centered attitude (Jamison, 2005).
Researchers who have studied the servant leadership model have shown growing success through the evidence to indicate that employees being coached by a servant-leader had an increase in motivation, had higher mental acuity, and were more satisfied with one’s organizational experience (Hayward, Neill, & Peterson, 2007).
Research has shown in theory and practice leadership implications on the performance of employees in organizations including business and education; however, little knowledge exists on leadership implications among sports teams. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in testing a new paradigm of leadership that could be used by coaches within sport contexts to spur positive outcomes for teams as well as individual athletes (Fifer, 2006; Kilty, 2006). Indeed, Nicks & McCracken (2010) noted a lack of leadership paradigm and details concerning how coaches respond to their teams’ environmental contexts as they seek to influence athletes’ behavior and achieve positive outcomes through demonstrated leadership.
In response to this lack of a leadership paradigm and informed research concerning sports leadership, the problem to be investigated in the proposed study revolves around how to equip women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches with various leadership characteristics and practices to excel in coaching sports in today’s competitive field of athletics. Similar to other organizations, athletic team coaches’ leadership has the potential for personal/team success with implications on one’s performance (Wooden, 2005 p. 178).
Yin (1994) argues “a case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomena and context are not clearly evident” (p. 13). By extension, the proposed inquiry will seek to discover if the extent of perceived characteristics of servant leadership by Women’s NCAA Division II head basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) is related to the extent of one’s performance.
While the constructivist paradigm recognizes the importance of the subjective human creation of meaning, hence facilitating close collaboration between the researcher and participants to enable them to communicate their stories (Baxter & Jack, 2008), the OLA tool will be instrumental in discussing servant leadership characteristics during self-administered surveys within teams to explore emerging concepts, patterns, themes and categories against subsequent data.
The population group for this study will be 48-80 female student-athletes and four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches.
The proposed qualitative study will provide valuable insights into which leadership strategies and practices may be used by Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches to spur successful coaching practices among female student-athletes, and also explore the value of the most appropriate leadership style in influencing female athletes to perform at a high level. Purpose Statement
Calls for effective leadership abound in the research literature; however, there remains a gap regarding the type of leadership style that coaches in sports settings should actually demonstrate to positively influence athletes toward peak performance and improve their win-loss record, enhance student-athlete grade point average, and sustain retention/graduation rates. If the preferred leadership style for NCAA Division II college basketball coaches truly exists, then the experiences of the people most closely related to positions of leadership will add valuable insights and understanding to the essence of such a leadership style.
The selection of a qualitative case study is therefore informed by the need to develop an understanding of the preferred leadership style demonstrated by women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches in spurring peak performance among female student-athletes.
Toward the realization of this purpose using a qualitative case study inquiry, the proposed study will borrow heavily from the Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument to explore the leadership characteristics in the context of their alignment with the six characteristics of servant leadership defined in the model (Laub, 1999). Laub’s six characteristics (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) will be illuminated from the response themes taken from the 48-80 Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball student-athletes surveys and four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches’ interviews.
As the study explores the diverse elements surrounding various leadership styles in NCAA Division II college basketball coaching practices, one may anticipate that a link will be established to facilitate a deep understanding of these elements in stimulating peak performance among female student-athletes, as required of a case study (Perry, 1998; Woodside & Wilson, 2003).
Significance of the Study to the Academic Field
The rationale of this study supports the need for quality athletic coaching leadership at the collegiate level. Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches provide access to higher education while developing young women through various leadership methods. Colleges seek to recruit high character ethical leaders with knowledgeable backgrounds of the sport, establish positive relationships, and understand the role that athletics play in education. Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches must promote good sportsmanship, be role models for athletes and fans, have a personal interest in the development of others, and attract student-athletes to the program.
College athletics provide competition and encourage athletic success while promoting and enhancing the reputation of the school. Quality coaches encourage pride and school spirit in the student population and offer enriching opportunities for social development. Significant contributions have been made in the development of individuals and teams as exemplified in one’s leadership roles with underlying leadership principles and concepts worthy of emulating and replicating elsewhere toward excellent performance as individuals and teams.
Teams generate additional revenues to further educate and prepare students. The value of leadership in educational settings is unique, as leadership is needed in careers, family lives, and communities. By identifying the gap in knowledge for leadership in sports, the proposed study seeks to fill this gap by contributing positively to the exploration of the preferred leadership style that can be used by women’s NCAA college basketball coaches to facilitate peak performance among female student-athletes, as well as providing enriching experiences for one’s intellectual and social development.
The implications of the proposed study could lead to an increase in opportunities and access to quality coaching tactics for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches, and reinforce the belief that women basketball coaches can contribute immensely to the development of female student-athletes, not only academically but also through the use of sport to develop various leadership methods.
Nature of the Study
Specifically, the (OLA) instrument, which includes Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership), will be administered to the sampled student-athletes competing in the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball championships as the basis to gain a deeper insight into the most critical leadership elements that could be applied to one’s coaching practices.
It is important to note that a pilot study will be administered with two female basketball coaches from local universities (Atlanta Metropolitan College and Georgia Perimeter College) to test the applicability of the semi-structured interview guide (for the semi-structured interview guide, see appendix G) within the proposed research settings. It is expected that the pilot study will provide an opportunity to not only assess items contained in the semi-structured interview guide to fine-tune and reinforce capacity to be able to demonstrate leadership styles and practices reflected by basketball coaches within the sports context.
The nature of this study will be qualitative with a case study methodology focus aimed at gaining an understanding of the important leadership elements from coaches who are currently in leadership positions in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball. Case study research is useful when “a how or why the question is being asked about a contemporary set of events over which the investigator has little or no control” (Yin, 1994 p. 9).
Consequently, in this context, a qualitative case study is consistent with understanding “how” and “why” Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches adopt and implement various leadership styles and the effects that these styles have on individual student-athletes as well as teams. Qualitative research is appropriate in this type of study as it not only seeks to understand an underlying phenomenon from the participants’ own set of lenses but also employs a naturalistic approach in assisting investigators to understand context-specific phenomena in the real world that cannot in any way be manipulated by the researchers (Welford et al., 2012).
Additionally, owing to its capacity to identify patterns, concepts and the relationships between concepts, qualitative research often yields rich, in-depth descriptions of the phenomenon of interest – in this case, successful leadership practices that could be used by coaches in the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball.
Available methodology scholarship demonstrates that case studies, which can involve qualitative data only, quantitative only, or both, are often “used to accomplish various aims: to provide a description, test theory or generate theory; exploratory and explanatory” (De Weerd-Nederhof, 2001 p. 513). This assertion lends justification to the fact that a quantitative instrument (Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment) will be used to collect quantitative data to be used qualitatively in exploring the type of leadership characteristics and attributes that lead to peak performance from the four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches among their teams.
The case study methodology, according to Scott and Russell (2005), should help to provide the contextual detail of the study participants (48-80 female student-athletes), as well as reveal thus far undisclosed information on the coaches leadership practices and strategies with the view to assisting the researcher to gain a comprehensive understanding of leadership attributes that contribute to the achievement of peak performance from the participants’ own perspectives. In this view, the qualitative case study approach is appropriate as the study seeks to gain a deeper understanding of participant experiences through multiple perspectives.
Baxter and Jack (2008) note “the establishment of boundaries in a qualitative case study design is similar to the development of inclusion and exclusion criteria for sample selection in a quantitative study” (p. 547). When using a qualitative case study design, the boundaries selected by the researcher indicate the breadth and depth of the study and not simply the sample size to be included, thus it is of immense importance to make a proper selection of the cases (Houghton et al., 2013).
Data collected will then be studied intensively to gain an in-depth understanding of the issues of interest in the study. Specifically, convenience and purposive sampling will be relevant in supporting the conceptual framework and the research questions addressed by the research, generating rich information on the type of phenomena that need to be studied, enhancing the generalizability of the findings, and producing a believable description of the fundamental elements that can be considered as critical in forming one’s own leadership style (Curtis et al., 2000).
It is also important to note that the semi-structured interview technique will be used as the main procedure to collect primary data not only because of its close association with qualitative, human scientific research but also due to its capacity to probe for participant opinions, perceptions and attitudes regarding the phenomenon under study (Houghton et al., 2013).
To explore and discover the preferred leadership style that could then be applied by coaches to assist individual student-athletes and teams to achieve peak performance within the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball, the proposed study will be guided by the following research questions:
- RQ1: How have the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches shown they exhibit the characteristic of (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership), which is based on the six characteristics of Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment used to define servant leadership?
- RQ2: What practices, strategies, or methods of the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches do not align with Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership?
The first research question (RQ1) will focus on looking at the experience of participants in an attempt to isolate instances of leadership that fit the description of a coach who values student-athletes.
Consequently, the leadership elements such as the willingness to be transparent (e.g., admitting personal limitations and mistakes, openness to being known by others, accountability and responsibility to others, and promoting open communication and sharing of information), maintaining integrity (e.g., demonstrating high integrity and honesty, maintaining high ethical standards, and showing trustworthiness), and self-awareness as well as being open to input from others (e.g., demonstrating open and non-judgmental attitude, being open to learning from others, showing flexibility in willingness to compromise, and demonstrating openness to receiving criticism and challenge from others) may be leadership characteristics or qualities to look out for.
The major function of research question one (RQ1) will be to isolate instances of leadership that fit into the description of a coach who values student-athletes. Such characteristics, according to Laub (2000), include believing in people and maintaining a high view of others (e.g., respecting others and believing in their unlimited potential, accepting people as they are, trusting people and showing appreciation to others), putting others first before self (e.g., putting the needs of others ahead of their own and showing love and compassion toward others), and demonstrating receptive and non-judgmental listening skills.
Research question one (RQ1) will aim to identify instances of leadership that fit into the description of a coach who is concerned with developing the student-athletes to their fullest potential. Laub (2000) acknowledged these attributes include providing the capacity for others to learn and grow (e.g., providing opportunities for people to develop their full potential, using power and authority to benefit others, providing mentor relationships in order to help people grow professionally, and viewing conflict as an opportunity for people to learn and grow), modeling (e.g., leading by example by modeling appropriate behavior, and also modeling a balance of life and work and encouraging others to do so), and facilitating the learning and development of people through encouragement and affirmation.
Research question one (RQ1) will aim to isolate instances of leadership that fit into the description of a coach who is concerned with building community. According to Laub (2000), specific characteristics of such a leader include demonstrating the capacity to enhance relationships (e.g., relating well to others and working to bring healing to hurting relationships), working collaboratively and emphasizing teamwork (e.g., facilitating the building of community and team and working with others instead of apart from them), as well as valuing the differences in others (e.g., valuing the diverse cultural or linguistic differences in people and also allowing for individuality of style and expression).
The major aim of research question one (RQ1) will be to identify instances of leadership that fit into the description of a coach who provides leadership to student-athletes. Laub (2000) acknowledges that such attributes include demonstrating intuition as to the future direction of the organization (e.g., effectively mapping out a vision for the future, using intuition and foresight to see the unforeseeable, and providing hope to others), taking the initiative to move out ahead (e.g., encouraging positive risk-taking, exhibiting courage and healthy self-esteem, and demonstrating competency and skills to get things done), and clarifying goals for people to understand what it takes to get to the vision (e.g., demonstrating clarity of future goals and ability to turn threats into opportunities).
Lastly, research question one (RQ1) will attempt to isolate instances of leadership that fit into the description of a coach who shares leadership with student-athletes in the basketball teams. According to Laub (2000), a leader who shares leadership should demonstrate the capacity to empower others (e.g., empowering others by sharing power, exercising low authority in controlling others and using persuasion to influence others rather than coercion) and share his or her status (e.g., demonstrating humbleness, leading from personal influence rather than positional authority, desist from demanding or expecting honor and awe for being the leader, and also refrain from seeking special status or perks arising from leadership).
The second research question (RQ2) will focus on identifying other leadership practices, strategies and paradigms that may be outside the scope of Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership, but are nevertheless practiced by Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches in leading student-athletes and teams. It is of immense importance to have a detailed understanding of these leadership strategies and practices for comparison purposes during the analysis of the qualitative data, and also to bolster a deeper understanding of “why” they are used and if they contribute substantially to the achievement of peak performance among student-athletes and basketball teams.
Additionally, an understanding of practices, strategies and methods that do not align with Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership will be beneficial not only in making recommendations to improve coaching leadership and practice but also in identifying shortcomings in basketball coaching leadership and eliciting interest in other leadership areas for future study.
Every discipline has concepts, variables, and theories that shape research studies. This study presents a review of leadership theories and capability frameworks that will assist the development of aspiring leaders in the field of coaching sports. Each participant studied will provide useful insights into the qualities of successful leaders in the sports context, and also assist in the identification of any shifts in generic characteristics and behaviors of leaders in terms of how they respond to divergent environmental situations and contexts as they lead student-athletes in various female basketball teams.
In light of this need, this section presents a range of leadership theoretical frameworks that could be successfully employed in athletic organizations to broaden theory, practice, and methodology in coaching. To achieve this, proven leadership principles, assessment tools, tactics, traits, and frameworks based on a sports language with special focus on what is current with reflections on changing realities. This study focuses on an in-depth inquiry to reveal theoretical discussions on servant leadership based on the definition of leadership terms, inquiring into the body of theory and research linking to leadership that affects student-athlete performance. A model will be presented and tested that links servant leadership to an organizational culture defined by Laub’s (1999) six characteristics of servant leadership.
Robert K. Greenleaf developed the concept in 1970 (Greenleaf, 1977; Spears, 2009). Greenleaf coined his definition of servant leadership as, “Process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p. 20). The servant-leader devotes these elements to providing services to address organizational needs reflected in the services provided to employees led by the leadership unequivocally implying being an end in themselves but not a means to organizational purpose fulfillment.
Spears draws upon Greenleaf’s theoretical foundations of servant leadership and suggests ten key components of the leadership style, namely “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community…The underlying servant leadership behavior draws on stewardship toward the organization and the people” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21).
The organization is held in trust by the servant leader to the public (Greenleaf, 1977), which is an objective balanced by a deep commitment to developing the people based on a sense of community throughout the organization (Greenleaf, 1977).
Hodgkinson (2009) argues that coaching leadership targets the development of talent to attain the full potential of a team under the influence of corporate culture supported on an organization’s infrastructure embedded in its corporate culture for effectiveness (Larson & Richburg, 2003). It is a general definition is multidisciplinary. Leadership is not an inborn aptitude, but a transferable skill to guide team members toward an effective execution of team tasks, in working toward social cohesion, and in the attainment of individual development.
Coaching leadership in the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaching draws on coaching leadership elements to develop and enhance team members’ skills to achieve maximum performance (Larson & Richburg, 2003). In this case, the coach’s role is to direct team members toward the attainment of specific goals to develop the team.
Analytically, the coach’s primary leadership responsibility is the entire team before targeting individuals as a secondary role. In the event that a team member’s development gets in the way of the team in the acquisition and use of a particular skill, the team leader focuses on the development of the team until a specific goal is attained before embarking on the development of the individual in need. The coach’s leadership’s tenets are grounded on clarity in the training of members in the acquisition of leadership skills, task effectiveness in task executions, coachability of team members, organizational and individual commitment toward specific goals, clarity of objectives, course of action to take, and confidentiality influencing a team’s effectiveness in context (Larson & Richburg, 2003) calling for a sense of loyalty and sacrificial roles.
Various leadership models draw on multidisciplinary definitions. If Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches applied Dr. Jim Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership, coaches may improve their win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates. This necessitates the need for a leadership role on the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership may serve the basketball community well. Without the basic definition of a leadership style drawing directly from the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the working definitions will be multidisciplinary depending on the area targeted for discussion and context of the application.
This study will seek to explore four individual Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams and the student-athletes perceptions of their coaches’ leadership behaviors and styles used to lead student-athletes. The scope of this study will focus on existing leadership styles and coaching practices and how these styles and behaviors will affect individuals and teams in achieving peak performance. The sample for this study consists of 48-80 female-athletes from four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams and four coaches from the Peach Belt Conference, both male and female.
For the qualitative case study, the administration of Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment to the 48-80 female student-athletes will provide a deeper understanding of one’s lived experiences within the context of their teams and how their coaches applied leadership practices and strategies. When administering the semi-structured interviews to the four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches, this may facilitate a deeper understanding of the coaches’ leadership practices and experiences through their own self-assessments. The quantitative findings from the assessment tool and interview responses will be used to determine themes based on the athletes’ and coaches’ perceptions of servant leadership and the influence it has on the achievement of peak performance among student-athletes and basketball teams.
If caution is not taken to articulate and implement the correct research design, the use of a qualitative case study methodology may limit the generalizability of findings due to its long-winded nature as well as issues relating to lack of rigor and over-subjectivity (Rowley, 2002; Scott & Russell, 2005). Sample selection and size may also limit the proposed study owing to the fact that it will not be representative of other areas under the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball apart from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) located throughout the southeast region of the United States (Armstrong Atlantic State University, Clayton State University, Georgia College, and Young Harris College).
In this sense, leadership strategies and practices based on participants selected from the PBC alone may not be generalizable to other coaches in other geographical areas. The study participants may not truthfully answer questions on the Organizational Leadership Assessment or semi-structured interview guide, which may limit the meaning of the study. Other limitations include time and resource constraints that may present during the data collection phase.
The proposed study is multidisciplinary drawing widely on various leadership theories and practices with a specific focus on servant leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. It will be delimited to compare various leadership styles with Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership to identify leadership elements that could be used to achieve peak performance among individual student-athletes and basketball teams.
This implies that other leadership styles will be excluded. Additionally, participation in the study will be delimited to males and females of all ethnicities coaching and females participating on Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams located in the Peach Belt Conference. Participants who meet all the other qualifications but are not from the Peach Belt Conference will be excluded from the study.
Leadership variedly affects each sphere of life underlying the success or failure experienced in goal-oriented task execution. It is not only the case with organizational performance such as military, spiritual, etc. but also the performance of student-athletes on Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The leadership of the basketball coaches plays significant roles as teachers, mentors, ethical practitioners, role models, and leaders exemplified in different leadership forms. Whereas that remains true of a leader, the underlying leadership influence directly impacts on success or failure of a group, in this case, the performance of a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.
To attain that goal, one needs to draw on different leadership theories developed over time by conducting a synthesis of existing leadership theories relevant to the current study with a focus on the servant leadership style. The background leading to the success stories in leadership began with Dr. James Naismith, who was the creator of the original game and rules. The universal declaration of human rights, requiring that women be awarded equal opportunity in the realms of Title IX that requires women to “be provided an equitable opportunity to participate in sport; female athletes receive athletic scholarships proportional to participation; and that female athletes receive equal treatment of equipment and supplies, scheduling of games and practice times, coaching, practice and competitive facilities, access to tutoring, publicity and promotions, and recruitment of student-athletes” (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.).
The proposed study will employ a qualitative case study approach to determine the leadership style for different coaches that are consistent with the six characteristics of Laub’s servant leadership style. Four NCAA Division II head basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference with varied ethnicities, qualifications, training, education, and gender will take part in the study. Approximately 48-80 NCAA Division II student-athletes from the Peach Belt Conference with a vast array of ethnicities, values, education, all of the female gender will take part.
The rationale is to develop a study that identifies a leadership style to adapt to facilitate ongoing progress in the field of Women’s NCAA II college basketball. By identifying a successful leadership style could translate to best-performing athletes and coaches toward the attainment of peak performance for the athlete and the coach, not to mention that the study will also serve as a criterion for judgment when selecting leaders for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
A summary of the current layout of the study, assumptions include definitions of a leadership style drawing directly from the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, with the working definitions being multidisciplinary depending on the area targeted for discussion and context of the application. The study suffers from limitations, which include applying the study findings to the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team leadership with the option of generalizing the findings at the user’s discretion.
During the 1990s scholars and practitioners have witnessed an unmatched increase of attention in organizational practice of servant leadership, but without connecting the emerging studies to leadership in other spheres such as sports. To draw and align the servant leadership style with the leadership in sports with the aim to improve performance in sports, the current review draws on sources including peer-reviewed articles, journal articles, popular articles and textbooks as demonstrated in the documentation.
This section begins with a brief description of a successful coach before embarking on a careful assessment of systems to train coaches and models of leadership in sports provided for in the literature.
The review then makes a brief mention of the historical and current gaps in the literature with particular reference to Laub’s six characteristics of the servant leadership style; then, in the ensuing section, the review appraises extant literature on the model of the servant leadership style, before embarking on a brief exploration of the six characteristics of servant leadership in organizational leadership assessment as demonstrated in Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) – these characteristics are assessed in more detail in a subsequent section of the review, especially with reference to leadership in sports. Afterward, the review engages in a comparative assessment of leadership styles as demonstrated in the existing literature.
In this section, available literature compares and contrasts the servant leadership model with other types of leadership models including autocratic leadership, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, situational leadership, ethical leadership, inspirational leadership and charismatic leadership. The review then evaluates Laub’s six characteristics that makeup servant leadership as well as similarities and gaps in the reviewed literature, before terminating with a summary and conclusion.
Sources considered in this review include books, peer-reviewed scholarly journals, and professional publications in the fields of coaching sports and leadership. To conduct a literature review, a search strategy included accessing a number of databases and sources through the University of Phoenix Library Online search engines, such as ProQuest, Gale Power Search, and EBSCOhost. Search terms used included: coaching leadership relating leadership approaches and underlying theories, gender, women in leadership and analogy to Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
Ongoing searches produced references to scholarly books, peer-reviewed articles, and a large number of peer-reviewed journal articles were examined. These research databases offered a vast amount of literature pertaining to coaching leadership, leadership theories, and strategies for coaching sports, how one may enhance coaching abilities, how different gender coaches perceive leadership practices, and models of leadership coaches use to excel in the field of sports.
Literature on the servant leadership style, other leadership styles considered in the study, implications on organizational performance, when compared with the servant leadership’s six characteristics as the yardstick to evaluate effectiveness in organizational performance will be conducted by and based on historical research to current materials on servant leadership and other leadership styles and the implications in sports with special emphasis on the coaching leadership for the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
From the historical perspective, authors including Case (1984), Chelladurai and Saleh (1980), Pratt and Eitzen (1989), Wren (1995), Anderson and Gill (1983) discuss gender in sports, Barnett, Smoll, and Smith (1992) on coaching leadership and motivational implications on team performance, and Bass (1985) correlates leadership to performance among others. Bass (1990) links theory to practice and implications on leadership, while Bird (1977) focuses on leadership and team attributes.
Authors of modern perspectives of leadership include Heydarinejad and Adman (2010), Avolio and Yammarino (2008), Armstrong (2001), Avolio and Yammarino (2008) on transformational leadership in sports, Bardes, Mayer, and Piccolo (2008), Banutu-Gomez (2004), Andrew (2001), Annette, Joseph, and Clifford (2010) on practical implications of servant leadership in organizations, Bell and Habel (2009), Brake (2010) focuses on a strategic approach to leadership by coaches, Blumenthal (2005) links leadership theory to practice, Boiche, and Sarrazin (2009) examines reasons for dropouts from teams that impede team performance.
Bowman (2000) compares different leadership styles, among others have researched and written widely on leadership and leadership styles across different disciplines, developing a common consensus that leadership has been and is regarded as playing the most significant role underlying the success or failure toward the attainment of success in any discipline. Widely read, research has shown that leadership in different forms has a strong implication on the performance of any organization.
Baric and Bucik (2009) provide a modern view of leadership motivation. In theory, Barrow (1977) defines leadership in relation to the behavioral process that influences the attainment goals and objectives with a strong correlation to the performance of an institution or organization, when they assert that leadership is “the behavioral process of influencing individuals and groups toward set goals” p.32. That is widely accepted as a leadership approach for organizations. A knowledge gap appears as to the preferred leadership style for sports coaching leadership, among the leadership styles used on formal organizations, which comes in different forms.
Avolio and Yammarino (2008), among other authors, agree with the fact that leadership comes in a variety of forms that strategically aim to provide guiding roles defined by the inherent characteristics of the leadership style and the leader (Wren, 1995). These leadership styles ranging from autocratic, servant, transactional, transformational, situational, ethical, inspirational democratic, charismatic, and coaching leadership styles, in theory, and practice have been proven to create different implications and outcomes on those who are led toward the attainment of specific performance objectives and goals (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Tichy & Devanna, 1986; Locke, 1991; Shashkin, 1986).
It is crucial to note that these leadership styles have different leadership implications for different leadership situations and environments. That has been widely accepted to be the case with leadership styles and implications not only on organizational performance but the performance of individuals in such organizations (Fiedler & Garcia, 1987). That is also the case in sports.
Sports require that the coach or leader of the organization provide a kind of leadership based on a leadership style to ensure success and optimal performance of individuals among the team. A case in point is Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the focus of this study’s leadership style. Not much has been researched into the leadership provided by team leaders or coaches for athletic teams and more specifically, the leadership style with its underlying characteristics to achieve coaching excellence among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. This study endeavors to study the literature from different sources on leadership styles, with a focus on servant leadership to identify the most appropriate or preferred leadership style that provides coaches with abilities to attain coaching excellence for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
It is critical to comment that while success or failure has been attributed to the skills of the leader and the leadership style for organizational performance, it is with equal enthusiasm that a parallel is drawn from organizational leadership style and one’s impact on the performance of such organizations on the performance of coaching leadership in sports. Ideally, that alludes to the fact that organizational leadership principles and theories are equally applicable in providing leadership when coaching sports.
One could affirm that it is the question of leadership skills transferred across disciplines. A parallel, as mentioned above can be drawn between organizational leadership and coaching leadership with the leadership principles and underlying theories equally applicable in both scenarios with similar implications on performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
Thus, one cannot overemphasize that leadership and the leadership styles are crucial components in the success or failure of the performance of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, compelling the need to study leadership styles and the implications on team performance or attainment of goals, drawing a parallel between organizational performance and sports performance with specific emphasis on a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.
This study will draw on the use of various sources of literature by different authors who have conducted qualitative and quantitative research on leadership in different organizations with a special emphasis on the servant leadership style. The study will then draw a parallel of the leadership styles applied in different organizations to the coaching leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. A number of articles on different forms of leadership and implications on organizational performance with special reference to servant leadership and implications on sports leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams to achieve peak performance as summarized on the next page in Table 1.
|Table 1.Sources for Leadership Theories and Practice|
|Sources and Items to Investigate Leadership styles Displaying authenticity, Providing leadership, Valuing people, Developing people, Building community, Providing leadership, Sharing leadership||Sources for Leadership Theories and Practice|
|Journals||Peer-reviewed articles||Popular articles||Textbooks||Total||Recency %|
|Leadership (Concept, theories, and practical applications) in Organizations||14||2||2||5||23||85|
|Sports and Psychology||9||1||9||86|
Recently >85%, founding theorists-, Empirical research studies-, Peer-reviewed articles-10, books-7, Gap = Yes.
Defining a Successful Coach
When evaluating the makeup of a successful coach, the first priority is to establish parameters to understand how a coach is measured for definition. Success in sports is when peak performance is achieved among athletic teams and is the underlying component that qualifies an athletic coach to be regarded as an effective leader when the coach has created a well-functioning team. On the collegiate level successful coaches are defined by win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rate. The science and art of coaching is the ability to teach and motivate others with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the game.
Players are motivated when leadership emphasizes the attainment of peak performance (MacLean & Chelladurai, 1995). The science of coaching is the ability to teach skills, techniques, game systems, and strategies (MacLean & Chelladurai, 1995). In-depth skills, knowledge, sports strategies, tactics, appropriate planning, clear comprehension of game rules and individual strengths and weaknesses underlie a successful coach.
The basis for creating a successful coach, in this case, is the servant leadership style adopted by the coach with the underlying six characteristics, which provides the basis for arguing that a specific leader is successful. Researchers scantly argue and link a successful coach with performance success. Many authors make observations when success has been achieved and attribute that to the coach. Possibilities flourish around other variables that intervene toward team success, implying the need to get to the bottom of what really defines a successful coach. Different researchers provide different definitions of success.
Leland (1988) considers a successful coach as one who prepares team members to play with the aim of achieving success in different levels of sporting activities. A gap, which Leland (1988) did not address, included the failure to identify how a team becomes ready to play at other higher levels without prior preparations to make the team a well-functioning unit that grows as a team toward perfection. The key points are preparedness and a well-functioning team. Athletic coaches must understand complex team dynamics and the forces that work inside teams including team conflicts and how to solve such problems and the requirements of an effective team.
At the level of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, a successful coach has a competent knowledge of basketball, is passionate about the game and the team members, and clearly understands what team members need to perform effectively (Leland, 1988). That is achieved by “paying attention to the player’s emotions, strengths, and weaknesses are the responsibility of a good coach” (Deci & Ryan, 1985). LeUnes and Nation (2002) described the role of a successful coach as being concerned with athletes’ overall welfare through life lessons without stimulating negative emotions in the players.
The athletic coach has to have strong control of one’s emotions, be able to communicate clearly with other parents and young athletes, establish an atmosphere that fosters trust, understanding of what winning requires, and the flexibility to learn effective ways to communicate and work through adverse situations. Tony Dungy defines emotional intelligence as the collection of four types of skills: perception and expression of emotions, understanding of emotions, usage of emotions, and managing of emotions (Leland, 1988). The coach establishes and attempts to achieve defined performance goals as argued by (MacLean & Chelladurai, 1995).
A combination of life experience and in-depth knowledge combined enables the coach to define what winning and performing to success means. According to MacLean and Chelladurai (1995), the skills acquired and developed with time and experience can be taught to team members with a level of skill, which can be emulated by team members who learn from the servant leader.
While this information defines a successful coach, situations that arise when at competition require the coach to be a patient person who avoids yelling and other behavior that may have negative implications on the attitude of team members with gradual implications on one’s performance. Deci and Ryan, (1985) and LeUnes and Nation (2002) view these as tactics, skills, techniques, personal responsibilities, others’ welfare, and adequate planning to advance the skills of athletes and define a successful coach.
Systems to Train Coaches
In sports, the role of the athletic leader has been under-examined and specifically, how training models relate to a coach’s development and role has never been studied. Williams and Miller (1983) and Mannie (2005), state that several of today’s athletic coaches do not recognize how to be an effective leader because they were not awarded the position based on one’s leadership skills, but assigned these titles based on personal powers to accomplishment success in sports.
Studies conducted by Williams (1983) coincide with the studies by Laios, Theodorakis, and Gargalianos (2003), which affirm that winning gives coaches power or social credibility. Many coaches were former players who advance in the profession without perfecting a craft. Studies by Fitzgerald, Sagaria, and Nelson (1994) established that 94.5% of athletic directors were titled on their accomplishments, a study widely agreed by Armstrong (1993) while promotions for assistants were based on winning teams.
The need to train coaches has received little support and attention in basketball with available models receiving inadequate attention. To be an effective coach one must realize without a standard against which to practice or measure one’s abilities the lack of creditability or validity one may have is null and void. The gap shown here is the need to train coaches who in turn train team members who significantly contribute to the successful performance of a team (Williams & Miller, 1983; Mannie, 2005).
Faulty criteria used to award leadership to coaches lack underlying qualities. Many of the coaches’ assigned leadership positions were associated with the level of success in the performance of team members without due regard of the leadership traits or leadership style the coach could adopt and the ultimate impact the leadership style could have on the performance of the team members. Williams (1983) and Laios, Theodorakis, and Gargalianos (2003) conducted studies that showed the significance of winning in sports leading to the coach gaining a status both in society and within the team. The coach who is the servant leader in that case views success as a tool for social creditability. Many of the coaches and team members regard success from the coach’s abilities without much regard for the underlying leadership style.
Coaches’ training models may be based on communication as a heuristic value with the instructional communication component affected through courses, clinics, camps, books, playing experience, and emulating and learning from elite coaches and athletes (Bloom & Carter, 2009). Other learning and training approaches include making observations, which influence positively experience, and internal and external reflections (Trudel & Werthner, 2006).
The training and learning elements for coaches have been shown by Anderson and Gill (1983) to be attained through formal educational preparation on the university level with other coaches developing skills through experience. Training and experience through high school to university levels play significant roles in coaching leadership for basketball teams for leaders to equip teams to successful performance (Bloom, Cregan, & Reid, 2007). That enables coaches who have acquired knowledge and skill of various leadership styles to inculcate the essential components likely to stimulate and motivate team members to exert efforts to achieve the synergy required to attain one fullest potential to succeed and achieve peak performance in sports (Bloom, Sahnela, Schinke, & 1995).
Models of Leadership in Sports
Even though general leadership theories have been conceptualized since the beginning of the twentieth century as established by Bass (1990) and other authors, leadership in sports has only been studied within the last 30 years, reinforcing the need to study current leadership trends in sports (Danielson, Drake, & Zelhart, 1975; Turman, 2003).
From a historical point of view, Conner (1998) views a leader as an agent of change, agreeing with modern leadership theories and the widely accepted notion that the leadership style a leader adopts with the underlying characteristics of the leader are compelling factors for the success or failure of an organization toward the attainment of specific goals and objectives across the gender divide (Blumenthal, 2005; Brake, 2010).
That is in line with the thinking adopted by Dubin (1965), who argues that organizational effectiveness and the leadership style are complimentary. Critically, effectiveness draws on trust the leadership develops with team members, teamwork, good working relationships, open-mindedness, setting and pursuing goals as a team with encouragement from leadership, good communication between coach and team members.
According to Dubin (1965), the leadership style adopted by the coach or leader should have strong implications on the performance of the team and each individual on the team. Hicks and McCracken (2010), affirm that leaders serve the purpose of articulating and manipulating systems by serving as teachers, mentors, ethical practitioners, and role models toward the success of an organization.
The fundamental components in a leader are to inculcate trust, respect, teamwork, entrusting relationships between team members and the leader, show strong accountability and take leadership roles and responsibilities toward the attainment of success in sports, and uphold high ethical standards in leadership in sports. Dubin (1965) radically departs on the implications of the leadership style used to run organizations showing significant differences in sports (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989).
While the prevailing characteristics among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams and individual team members in question have not been defined to allow for such a conclusion, the assumptions inferred by Dubin (1965) could not be taken as a blanket cover for the leadership of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Dubin (1965) communicates supporting research, which infers that organizational members, in this case, the members of the basketball team could attain success, which could be linked to effective and supportive leadership. Dubin (1965) does not provide a detailed study of the leadership skills and traits successful leaders should be characterized with.
One could borrow from the arguments and research conducted by Stogdill (1974) who identified a number of traits and skills a leader should be characterized with to be successful. That could lead to the conclusion that the leadership style and the traits and skills of the leader are complimentary. One could critically, argue that whether an excellent leadership style has been identified to address, with effectiveness, the leadership of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, if the leader has not inculcated specific skills and traits specific to the sports discipline, the leader, may risk a chance in providing successful coaching leadership, based on the leadership style identified.
Thus, it is crucial to argue that the leadership style adopted by the coach and the characteristics skills of the coaching leader provides an enabling environment for peak performance of a sports team, as could be applied to a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. Theories underlying different leadership styles and the leadership traits and skills will be discussed later in another section.
Whereas the success or failure in the performance of a team in the sports world is always strongly attributed to the skills and abilities attributed from each team’s coach embedded in the leadership style characterizing the coaches’ leadership style. Lee and Chuang (2009), share one of the proponents attributing to successful leadership practices depends entirely on the collaborative effort of the team leader. Collaboration toward the attainment of organizational performance is a leadership tool to enhance individual and organizational interactions is demonstrated, as one could deduce in leadership variables that include honesty and integrity, establishment of good relationships, good organizational and individual interactions, trustworthiness, integrity, and good communication skills, and conflict resolution strategies that address organizational development and stability.
A fact Stogdill (1957) strongly regarded as fundamental to the success of a team. It is with equal passion that studies conducted by Lee and Chuang (2009) and Stogdill (1957) can be applied to coaching leadership among basketball teams with special reference to a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. That could be summed in the famous words of John Wooden who says that, “success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming” (Wooden, 1997 p.174).
The objective is to attain peak performance for each team member and ultimately the team, the success that is always attributed to the coaching leadership provided by the coach. Proceeding there is a need to examine different kinds of leadership styles and the contribution toward the performance of the entire team.
Specializing in Servant Leadership
The study draws on the servant leadership style as the most appropriate leadership model for coaches in providing leadership toward achieving coaching excellence in sports. The history of women’s participation in sports especially in basketball is based on the rules created by Dr. James Naismith, a major contribution to the beginning of women’s basketball in 1891 (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.).
By 1972, the current involvement of women in sports had gained significant success leading to the modern participation of women in sports. No evidence shows that coaches of basketball teams had a specific leadership style to adopt and what were the implications on the performance of women on basketball teams. That led to the current trend in questioning the effectiveness and implications of different leadership styles on organizational performance with special emphasis on the servant leadership style as can be applied for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
Greenleaf (1977) and Laub (1999) contributed significantly to previous concepts and principles that make up six servant leadership characteristics by exploring the implications on organizational leadership and performance. Spears (1998) linked past approaches to leadership in sports to the current leadership to servant leadership style by fundamentally focusing on autocratic leadership. Spears (1998) identified gaps in Greenleaf’s (1977) and focused on researching and developing Greenleaf’s (1977) studies by coining ten new key elements of servant leadership: “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21).
These findings were taken a step further by modern authors including Bardes, Mayer, and Piccolo (2008), and Hannay (2009) who realized the interconnection between team motivation and the servant leadership style as discussed by (Abu Al-Ruz, Hatamleh, & Hindawi, 2009; Sudhakar & Vinod, 2011). These authors, among others, extensively studied servant leadership and coupled coaching leadership as a modern trend. Each of the characteristics of servant leadership is studied below from a historical perspective, current trends, and gaps in knowledge with implications on organizational performance and analogous to coaching leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
Historical, Current, and Gaps
Each of the six characteristics of the servant leadership style constituting the leadership variables discussed in the following sections demonstrate historical and current findings showing the gap between historical authors and current authors, and the gaps as applicable in the current organizational leadership environment analogous to coaching leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
Model of the Servant Leadership Style
Questions linger on the preferred leadership style athletic coaches may use to attain coaching excellence in sports with special emphasis on the performance of women among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Servant leadership is one new model that has proved successful in a growing number of organizations (Mark Neill, Karen S. Hayward, & Teri Peterson, 2007). In theory, servant leadership is defined as a “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p.20). Laub (1999) provided his own definition of servant leadership as, “an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader” (“The Organizational Leadership Assessment Group”, 1998-2013).
Greenleaf (1977) explains that a leader’s first priority is to serve others and invest in the growth of each individual in the organization. The servant-leader is respectful, listens intently, and finds the good in everyone to understand better one’s individual uniqueness (Greenleaf, 1977).
These definitions closely emphasize the wellbeing of the individual, Spears (2009) and Greenleaf (1977) seem to focus more on the behavior of an individual with a shared goal. When goals are clearly set and prioritized, hypothetically, success toward the attainment of that goal is guaranteed. Thus, a leadership model that incorporates that leadership attribute is crucial in sports. The definition marked by Spears (2009) deviates from emphasizing a single individual to focusing on both the individual and others who may constitute a group. That definition always seems to fit into the context of the leadership styles appropriate to lead Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
Team members and individuals are bound to benefit from servant leadership. Typically, Laub (1999) focuses more on others and not on an individual, leading to the conclusion that it is applicable to team members on a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. This implies that the coach should identify the preferred approach to use to lead others by focusing on sensitive individual needs first as a critical element, an attribute defining servant leadership style, before the team is focused on and gradually the individual team leader.
While leadership comes in different forms with different characteristics, each leadership style is appropriate for a specific environment based on the inherent characteristics of the leadership style. Servant leadership has its defining characteristics worth evaluating for unique appropriateness among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams aiming at optimizing the performance of team members to attain peak performance.
That draws on the leadership provided by the team’s coach. Greenleaf (1977) and Spears (1998) seem to agree on the transformative force of servant leadership by emphasizing the role of the leader as putting deliberately the needs of others ahead of the leaders. Greenleaf (1977) argues further by asserting that servant leadership enables team members and the team to “grow healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely themselves to become servants” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 14).
As mentioned elsewhere, one could conclude that it is a fragile kind of leadership where the leader acts the role of the servant and the servant seems to be the point of focus. Combining the arguments of Bum (1978) and Greenleaf (1977), one concludes otherwise. Servant leadership is a strong type of leadership that is transformative. It enables the coach or leader to inculcate the listening element in the team members since listening is one of the strongest components a team leader or coach relies on when instructing team members.
Once the team leader has developed the natural urge to serve, Greenleaf’s (1977) perspective of the leadership process influences the leader where the “conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Greenleaf, 1970). That allows the leader to attain the leadership status and enables “individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p.20). Greenleaf’s (1977) views concur at this point with that of Spears (2009) on the development process of the team and individual team members. That calls for a detailed study of the characteristics of the servant leadership style and its effectiveness in a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.
In order to attain coaching excellence based on servant leadership, different literature and organizational leaders agree the leader invests time and energy in the development of the team and individual team members by capitalizing on the positive emotions and strengths of the team. It boils down to using team members as a resource. That is in agreement with Hackman and Wageman’s (2005) and coaching (2005) views on coaching when providing coaching leadership.
In the context of the current study, coaching leadership defined by Hackman and Wageman (2005) communicate “direct interaction with a team intended to help members make coordinated and task-appropriate use of one’s collective resources in accomplishing the team’s goals” (p. 269) culminates in appropriate inculcation of the elements characterizing a servant leadership style for a coach in the field of coaching sports.
Typically, that is in perspective among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. These elements include, “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21). The question will remain how these elements are crucial in coaching leadership based on the principles of servant leadership in the sport of basketball. Thus, coaching could significantly contribute to borrowing and embedding the principles of the servant leadership style, to an athletic coach in pursuing excellence and peak performance for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. One should bear in mind the goals of coaching as a leadership continuum to attain excellence and peak performance among a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.
Witherspoon and White (1996) provide the general goals of coaching leadership to include “to build skills, enhance performance, or guide leaders toward the cultivation of organizational objectives” p.6. That reflects on servant leadership as the baseline for coaching leadership on a basketball team toward the pursuit of excellence and peak performance. To “build skills, enhance performance, or guide others toward the cultivation of organizational objectives,” in this case for the coach providing leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, team leadership draws on team dynamics as provided by the coach or leader.
Arguments by Anshel (2003) concur that a coach who executes the leadership task with effectiveness is the one “who elicits either successful performance outcomes or positive psychological responses on the part of her or his athletes” (Horn, 2002). Listening, clarity, empathy, healing, stewardship, commitment, community building, foresight, healing, and conceptualization form considerable assumptions that may define an effective coach, which are the key elements that define the servant leadership style. When leading a team, these are critical strengths of the servant leadership style that a coach may want to exemplify.
It is of fundamental worth to note that an effective coach plays significant roles, which include “leader, follower, teacher, role model, limit setter, psychologist/counselor and/or mentor” (Anshel, 2003 p. 56). Based on the servant leadership style, the team leader, according to Anshel (2003) should identify the needs of each team member and be ready to address the individual needs of each team member to optimize one’s performance through a team-building process that draws on the principles of an effective coach.
Context is another team leadership component that needs to be addressed which is a key strength of an athletic coach. In the context of the coaching leadership drawing from the servant leadership style for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team, the coach requires to provide support to team members for the desired need within the context of the team in this case gender. The gender issues are strongly related to Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams since the coach leads a group of females. There are psychological and other issues related to gender and the performance of a team relative to gender.
That assumption follows extensive research conducted by (Chelladurai, 1978) and (Anshel, 2003) on the models of an effective coach toward the attainment of effective leadership in athletic teams with the aim of developing the team toward attaining peak performance. That was consistent with the quantified Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS) developed and used by Chelladurai and Saleh (1980). The Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS) consisted of five dimensions of leadership for a coach. Some of the elements in the scale varied radically from the servant leadership style by incorporating the autocratic and democratic leadership principles.
In Chelladurai and Saleh’s (1980) findings, the five dimensions of coaching leadership included “leader behavior, training and instruction, positive feedback, social support, democratic and autocratic behavior” (p. 20). Other leadership styles will be discussed and evaluated in other sections with a comparative analysis of strengths and weaknesses to provide the rationale for a specific type of leadership style to achieve coaching excellence.
When underlying effective training of context team members may want to provide support for the “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009, p. 20), commitment is one of the strengths that makes an effective coach, with the servant leadership style’s key strength providing the coach and the team members with a reciprocating sense of commitment toward one another.
Commitment is the context of a basketball team that illustrates reciprocating relationships and commitment toward each other to promote team success. The primary intent of the servant leader is to serve while providing an enabling environment and stimulating the “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Dworakivsky & Sosik, 1998; Spears, 2009).
Thus, the course of action with clearly stated objectives for the development of the team implies developing clear strategies to enable the coach to become effective in one’s leadership role. Coaching leadership may want to sway practices to intermittently draw on servant leadership styles to provide leadership toward the attainment of incremental growth, a parallel between growing “healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous” (Spears, 2009 p. 20), and authors who have extensively researched on team development (Knapp 2008; Reeves & Ellison 2009).
Studies by Gould, Dieffenbach and Moffett (2002) point out “the participating leaders are able to clarify objectives, set expectations for change, and organize how the coaching process will be conducted” (p. 23). This is demonstrated in the commitment to the growth of the team and the team members embedded in the commitment toward the team and individuals (Fifer, 2006). Basing coaching leadership on the servant leadership style, the coach draws a parallel by internalizing the servant leadership characteristics to clarify and provide team leadership by defining key performance and team development standards and the implications on team development and performance (Feger, Woleck, & Hickman, 2005).
A leader who is willing to serve can provide hope instead of despair and can be an example for those who want direction and purpose in their lives and who desire to accomplish and contribute (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008). The appropriateness of the servant leadership style for coaches in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams underlines the need to draw assumptions on key defining elements including listening, awareness, stewardship among others and the consistency with the needs and expectations to ultimately achieve coaching excellence and provide the rationale for one to adopt a leadership style for coaching sports.
Six Characteristics of Servant Leadership in Organizational Leadership Assessment
Laub (1999) formulated an operational definition of servant leadership from an agreed-upon list of characteristics of servant leadership upon realizing the need for a way to evaluate the level at which followers and leaders perceive the presence of servant leadership characteristics within one’s organizations. Existing literature demonstrates that Laub “studied servant leadership in an attempt to define specific characteristics of the servant leadership concept through a written, measurable instrument” (Stone, Russell & Patterson, 2004 p. 358). Laub’s (1999) definition acknowledged that:
Servant leadership is an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader. Servant leadership promotes the valuing and development of people, the building of community, the practice of authenticity, the providing of leadership for the good of those led, and the sharing of power and status for the common good of each individual, the total organization and those served by the organization. (p. 83)
Laub then proceeded to develop the items for the evaluation/assessment tool that continues to be used by organizations on a wide-ranging scale to measure the perceptions of servant leadership without ever making mention of the term “servant” or “servant leadership” (Laub, 1999). The six characteristics of servant leadership contained in the assessment tool, known as Organizational Leadership Assessment, are explained below.
According to the literature, a servant leader must demonstrate the ability to admit personal limitations and mistakes, remain open to being known to others, promote open communication and sharing of information, sustain accountability and responsibility to others, maintain a non-judgmental and open-minded attitude, encourage flexibility and willingness to compromise, and evaluate himself or herself before blaming others (Laub, 2000). Additionally, in authenticity, a servant leader must remain open to receiving criticism and challenge from others, demonstrate high integrity, trust and honesty when dealing with followers, and maintain high discipline and ethical standards (Stone et al., 2004).
A servant leader must not only believe in people and maintain a high view of people but he or she must also demonstrate the capacity to respect others, believe in the unlimited potential of each individual, accept people as they are, trust others, demonstrate concern regarding the needs of people, trust and show appreciation to others (Dennis & Bocarnea, 2005; Laub, 2000). Such a leader, according to Joseph and Winston (2005), must put others first before their own needs and demonstrate a listening, receptive, and nonjudgmental orientation.
A servant leader must demonstrate the ability for promoting the personal and professional growth of followers by providing opportunities for people to develop to their fullest potential, using his or her power and authority to benefit others, providing mentor relationships in order to help people grow professionally, viewing conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow, and creating an environment that encourages learning (Laub, 2000).
A servant leader must demonstrate the capacity to build community by leading by example in modeling appropriate behavior, modeling a balance of life and work and encouraging others to do so, developing followers through encouragement and affirmation, enhancing relationships through relating well to others and working to bring healing to hurting relationships, facilitating the building of community and emphasizing teamwork, as well as valuing the differences in people and allowing for individuality of style and expression (Laub, 2000).
To provide effective leadership, a servant leader must not only demonstrate the vision of the future and use intuition and foresight to see the unforeseeable (Dennis & Bocarnea, 2005; Joseph & Winston, 2005), but he or she must also provide hope to others, encourage risk-taking behavior, exhibit courage, maintain healthy self-esteem, demonstrate knowledge and skills to get things done (Stone et al., 2004), maintain clarity on goals and capacity to point the direction, empower others by sharing power, and use persuasion to influence others instead of coercion (Laub, 2000).
This characteristic essentially implies that a servant leader should demonstrate the capacity to share his or her leadership position by showing humbleness when dealing with others, leading from personal influence rather than positional authority, not expecting or demanding honor from the title of the leadership position, and not seeking special status or perks that may result from leadership position (Laub, 2000).
A Comparative Study of Leadership Styles
Servant leadership model vs. autocratic leadership model
Having reviewed literature on a range of leadership styles, it is crucial to examine the literature on the strengths and weaknesses in relation to coaching and the ultimate performance of a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. These eight leadership styles, as mentioned before including the servant, autocratic, transactional, transformational, situational, ethical, inspirational, and charismatic leadership styles. In the context of coaching leadership, each leadership style has direct and indirect implications on the leadership influence and definitive performance of the team in question. Thus, a comparative study provides the baseline argument relating to a particular leadership style more suited for a Women’s NCAA Division II college team.
A detailed discussion of the servant leadership style has highlighted six characteristics applicable to the leadership and its implications on the coaching Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. These include stewardship, empathy, foresight, and conceptualization, persuasion, healing, and listening. In correlation to the autocratic leadership style, it is characterized by power as a tool to the attainment of the ultimate objective, no inputs from team members but the team works on the directions and decisions of the coach, the coach identifies and dictates the appropriate methods to use to attain group development, and no decisions are made by the team but rather by the team’s coach.
The autocratic leadership style had been embraced traditionally as the most appropriate leadership style before other leadership styles were embraced. This autocratic style was based on the concept that “power is not a form of leadership it is a form of control by intimidating employees” (De Cremer, 2007). It is a power-centered leadership style. Analogous to athletic coaches, it orchestrates that the coach should use punishment and rewards to lead, and heavily rely on one’s position to direct team members to perform irrespective of individual concerns.
That can well be summarized in the statement that “an autocratic leader zealously shields him from criticism about personal abilities and has an ego-driven need to control other people” (De Cremer, 2007). Once an athletic coach adopts the fear-driven leadership style, the consequences may lead to resistance from team members and reduce performance (Jamison, 2005). Under the autocratic style, team members are likely to become fearful, resentful, tense, develop low morale, and lead to high absenteeism and staff turnover.
One may stop short of recommending a leadership style for a basketball team in this case of a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team when the argument that it was a form “of control by intimidating employees” (De Cremer, 2007). Before fully discarding and discrediting any leadership style, the argument could be that when there is urgency in decision-making, the autocratic leadership style applies. That may dismiss the optimism of long-term benefits that could accrue from the leadership style.
The servant leadership style contrasts sharply with the autocratic leadership style by providing a long-term hope of development and decisions that have positive long-term effects on the members and team as a whole. That makes autocratic leadership unfit for long-term decision-making and the growth of the team. This is further supported by the facts that show that it often causes employees to resist direction and underperform job responsibilities (De Cremer, 2007).
Current trends are shifting to the employee needs to be empowered; a radical departure from the autocratic leadership style, where employees’ duty included obeying orders and executing assigned tasks without questions. When drawing on the principles of autocratic leadership, there is little or no hope of empowering team members toward the attainment of specified objectives by accepting one’s inputs into the team.
From the above literature, autocratic leadership is deficient in enabling the coach to provide the leadership that allows for personal growth, whereas not allowing external inputs and collaborative efforts for team development and growth, but focuses on the leader around whom team development revolves. Again servant leadership seems to provide the space required for the interaction between the team’s coach and team members while leading with the underlying rationale of wanting to serve.
Leadership styles provide room for actively engaging team members in personal growth and development whereas providing the leadership needed for the development and growth of the team and the team members. That can also be viewed from the seven key elements of a successful coach, which can only be accommodated, based on the servant leadership style.
Servant leadership model vs. transactional leadership model
In the process of conducting the literature review on the most appropriate leadership style to adopt for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team, another leadership style to correlate with the servant leadership style for a coach is the transactional leadership style. It has emerged from research studies that transactional leadership provides appropriate leadership in an environment where the coach or leader uses punishment and rewards to motivate members toward the performance of a specific task.
In the quest for attaining peak performance, when a team member or the entire team performs exceptionally well, the coach rewards the members with the hope of motivating them toward improved performance (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989; Robbins, Houston & Dummer, 2010). Motivations are external in nature and rarely focused on intrinsic motivational factors. Extant literature shows that “transactional leadership involves the leader’s ability to focus on task responsibilities” (Bass, 1990 p. 29). This model defined by Max Weber in 1947 and again by Bernard M. Bass in 1981 seeks to motivate followers by appealing to one’s own self-interest (Bass, 1990; Garner & Laskin, 2000).
There is a sharp distinction here between servant leadership and transactional leadership. While servant leadership, according to Greenleaf’s (1977) revolves around ten key elements, which include; “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (p. 21), transactional leadership focuses on reward and punishment. “Transactional leadership uses a system of rewards and disciplinary measures to motivate employees: (Bass, 1990 p. 30).
Transactional leadership draws on the principles of motivating workers by the exchange of status and wages for the work effort of the employee (Wren, 1995). The coach’s leadership skills draw on directives and actions, which compel team members to accept the set goals and cultural orientation and team structure without making any inputs or contributions toward the leadership of the team. Thus, solutions to problems affecting the team evolve from within and not without. One could say that transactional coaching leadership draws solutions from within the team and does not accept external inputs. A clear indication that transactional leadership is based on management by exception and contingency rewarding approaches.
The goal of any team is to win and attain the best performance possible. According to Carron et al., (2002), Heuzé et al., (2006), Myers et al., (2004), and Watson et al., (2001), team cohesion has a strong influence on the performance of a team and can be attained based on the leadership skills of a coach. Here, cohesion is defined as “a dynamic process that is reflected in part by the tendency of a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of each member’s affective needs” (Carron & Brawley, 2000 p. 222). Thus, cohesion, effectiveness, and leadership are intertwined toward the pursuit and attainment of a specified objective.
The servant leadership style has been discussed extensively in relation to the seven key components that characterize a successful coach. In that discussion, the servant leadership style showed significant agreement as a leadership style compatible with the key characteristics of a successful coach. As discussed above, transactional leadership reflects itself on reward and punishment with the underlying principle transactions model. Team development is based on transactions between the leader/coach and team members. To achieve peak performance, the coach, borrowing from the transactional leadership model awards team members based on the level of success attained, as a motivating component.
When compared with the servant leadership style, motivating team members whereas taking into consideration individual needs and input can achieve team development. The servant leadership style provides an upper hand in motivating team members toward the attainment of peak performance. That is in addition to the fact that some needs of team members might not be addressed before the team members get engaged in a sporting event, possibly disqualifying the transactional leadership style from the perspective of taking care of team members prior to sporting events. Servant leadership embraces the needs of team members even before a sporting event with the aim of identifying any problems or hindrances to optimizing one’s performance.
Servant leadership model vs. transformational leadership model
Available literature demonstrates that sports coaches in leadership positions share a multiplicity of unique characteristics that are predominant in the transformational leadership domain, including ethical behavioral orientation, shared vision and objectives, performance enhancement through charismatic leadership, and leading others by example (Armstrong, 2001). In these characteristics, the coach’s ethical behavior and the team members’ draw on a leadership model that enables one to focus on perfecting the performance of team members to optimize one’s attitude and execution of tasks as argued that “good sportsmanship is defined as qualities of behavior, which are characterized by courtesy and genuine concern for others” (Trusty, 2000).
Thus, the coach as a leader focused on the ethical behavior of the team members as here reinforced in this statement as “exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.” A coach and team members have to demonstrate a high degree of integrity and other standards formulated within the team toward pursuing honesty, fair treatment of others within the team, positive thinking, and taking responsibility for actions.
Transformational leadership provides the basis for the coach and the team members to develop mutual working relationships toward pursuing a shared goal through collective responsibility while working to achieve peak performance. Motivation, performance, and morale underpin the transformational leadership style. The coach in this case is the role model inspiring team members toward exerting individual efforts and energies by believing in the team members and the team concept. Leadership enables team members to identify strengths and weaknesses as they transform the thoughts of others to believe in each other and how one contributes to the efficiency of the team. Once that is done, the coach is able to align each team member to specific team tasks specifically appropriating strengths and performance.
As postulated by Bass (1985), from the leaders’ viewpoint, the transformational leadership model is endowed with the capacity to influence followers by encouraging and promoting change and followership among them. Available literature demonstrates that “transformational leadership creates valuable and positive change in the followers with an end goal of developing followers into leaders” (Bass, 1990 p. 30), and that followers are influenced by the transformational leadership model to become motivated to the extent of exceeding initial expectations (Yukl, 1989).
The shared vision or goal is a key element to transformational leadership that allows for the coach to encourage or motivate team members toward the attainment of peak performance with the ultimate goal of achieving the shared goal and benefits associated with the coach. These could include a name, performance, and the ultimate financial benefits, which belong to the entire team and not the organization. It is mentioned in the literature “transformational leadership involves the ability to motivate followers to go beyond expectations to reach higher goals” (Avolio & Yammarino, 2008 p. 136).
The transformational leadership style is characterized by charismatic leadership where the model requires that the leader actively influence the team members toward peak performance by encouraging them, by attending to individualized needs, a case similar to the servant leadership where the individual needs of the team members are carefully considered. Leading by the servant leadership model allows the coach or leader to display empathy and support for individual development and growth in each aspect that impacts factors such as team cohesion that have implications on the performance of the team.
Transformational leadership models seem to be appropriate for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team as each of the team members is free to communicate with the coach about the challenges that may impede the progress and performance of the team. That is also the case with servant leadership, which allows the team members the opportunity to provide input toward the challenges facing the team. Here, the team leader and the player develop an intrinsic urge for self-development while having an internal urge to fulfill team tasks aimed at optimizing the performance of the team.
Further studies on transformational leadership styles indicate the leadership model that the coach may use to approach the team in stimulating one’s intellectual creativity in sports in team members to optimize capabilities and performance. In this case, the coach values learning as a key component in leadership to provide new solutions to problems and other challenges that may affect team development or performance, though seeking the most appropriate approach to motivate team members toward optimizing individual and team performance.
Challenges are bound to arise within team dynamics and the leadership in coaching opens up new learning opportunities to improve on leadership styles to seek other new methods to achieve coaching excellence. Thus, the transformational leadership style concurs with the servant leadership style where the leadership values input from the team member, which “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p.20).
The team leadership model under transformational leadership allows the coach or leader to provide inspirational motivation by articulating a vision of a masterpiece or excellent performance for the team. It is true as has been argued that the vision could be characterized by intrinsic appeal, in this case, the benefits likely to be gained as a team and for each team member when the team achieves peak performance.
Tasks performed by team members are based on the inspiration provided by the coach or leader toward the attainment of specified goals and objectives toward the attainment of peak performance. Servant leadership seems to be compatible with the transformational style of leadership since servant leadership seems to provide team members with the motivation and inspiration required to become a successful team.
When analyzing both leadership styles communication skills are speculated more on the characteristics of the servant leadership style that revolves around the concept of self as a steward of the organization and its people, and active listening as one of the characteristics of servant leadership as well as basic performance elements of a team (Greenleaf, 1977). Communication components of transformational leadership provide coaches with idealized influence on their team members. Idealized influence draws on the skilled capability of the team leader or the coach to behave as a role model to instill integrity, respect, ethical behavior, and trust in the leadership and eyes of the team members.
These components can be provided based on the servant leadership style that models an environment where team members and coach regard it as responsibilities to model behaviors and attitudes that aim to transform the team to higher capabilities and performance to focus on achieving peak performance on a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.
Other team leadership styles that have been studied and applied in different disciplines as management tools including situational leadership styles, and inspirational, leadership styles as comparatively studied below.
Servant leadership model vs. situational leadership model
The Situational Leadership model from Blanchard and Hersey certifies that leaders must use different leadership styles depending on the situation (Wren, 1995). “This method allows you to analyze the needs of the situation one’s in, presumes that different leadership styles are better in different situations and that leaders must be flexible enough to adapt styles to the situations” (Hyung Hur, 2008 p. 361).
In comparison, servant leadership is not based on constantly reevaluating arising situations to formulate strategies to address new challenges that arise with changing coaching needs. Servant leadership, where the leader inculcates and nurtures an inborn desire to lead a team toward the attainment of a specific goal, which renders an effective team radically, departs from the underlying concept of the situational leadership style. Thus, the implications for an athletic coach present constant changing situations to provide leadership (Hyung Hur, 2008).
Task behavior and relationship underlie the direction of the situational leadership style (Hyung Hur, 2008). Comparatively, servant leadership bases its leadership on persuasion where the coach does not coerce subordination of the team members but uses one’s leadership skills to convince team members about an issue and a decision with desired outcomes. This element distinguishes the servant leadership style from other leadership styles including the classical leadership models that had an encouraging basis on religion as argued by (Greenleaf, 1977; Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008). The situational leadership style is task directive-based (Wren, 1995).
That does not always sit well with the servant leadership style in sports for the athletic coach, although seems to infringe and underestimate the mental capacity of the team members’ therefore compelling subordination even when disagreeing with the team.
Servant leadership model vs. ethical leadership model
Ethical leadership is demonstrated in sports as individual players, the team, coach, or athletic organization adheres to the rules of conduct (Weese, 1996). Ethical leadership is closely compared with servant leadership. Both value the principle of long-term relationships. In coaching, it is important to uphold integrity, a fact that both servant leadership and ethical leadership models strongly emphasize on. As Weinberg and Gould (2003) state, a servant leader would always strive to ensure that all members feel part of the leadership team.
This example is one of the leading principles of ethical leadership. The two leadership styles though share a lot of similarities, have a number of differences that make them different. Whereas servant leadership emphasizes leadership that involves the leader creating an environment where followers feel they are the leaders, ethical leadership does not. In its place, ethical leadership emphasizes the need for the leader to act in a manner that would be viewed as fair and moral by all concerned individuals.
Servant leadership model vs. inspirational leadership model
According to Doherty and Danylchuk (1996), Chelladurai (1990), LeUnes and Nation, (2002) inspirational leadership is motivational, draws on emotional attachments to the leader the force behind goal-oriented leadership. While little research has been conducted on the influence of inspirational leadership on coaching leadership in sports, available studies link underlying inspiration, charismatic motivation, decision-making effectiveness, and the suitability of the leadership style to different environments toward the attainment of organizational objectives. Similar to sports, coaching is based on sheer hard work, right inspiration, and determination (Kidman, 2005; Leland, 1988).
A contrast where the servant leader develops a natural urge to lead signifies a weakness in inspirational leadership, where motivation and inspiration are the keys to success. That is because the “natural urge to lead” and “inspiring by performing” contrast, implying leadership without inspiration excellence in performance cannot lead to failing to create insight in the team and when the leader has poor leadership and performance skills. Inspirational leadership is narrow in context while servant leadership is wide in context, a gap that cannot be narrowed by the inspirational leadership concept.
Servant leadership model vs. charismatic leadership model
Charismatic leadership possesses characteristics that make it appropriate for coaching leadership. The main characteristics of charismatic leadership include simplicity, self-confidence, creative persuasion and risk lovers. This leadership style has close comparison to servant leadership. A charismatic leader would influence followers. In coaching, this kind of leadership would be effective. Using this model of leadership a coach would need to convince his or her players that a given course of action would be best suited to give out the desired result within a specified time. This way, players would appreciate the need to act in a given direction as a way of achieving a specified shared goal. Weinberg and Gould (2003) state, this strategy is best for a long-term basis. Servant leadership acts in the same manner.
A leader would provide foresight to the followers and let them take a given course of action without any form of coursing. Charismatic leaders create an environment where the followers would feel that they are in the lead, that one’s opinions are given the priority they deserve. Both the servant leadership model and charismatic leadership styles compare in that both depend on the creativity and intelligence of the leader.
The leader has the task of ensuring that followers perform a given task in a manner that is desirable to the leader but without the use of any force. Tasks are not always easy; as Boiche and Sarrazin (2009) communicate a human being is an independent creature with thoughts, which vary randomly. When there is a task at hand, there would be as many suggestions of the best way of doing the task, as there would be the number of people present. Both types of leadership would demand that a leader make everyone act in the same direction, although without any force. It would take intelligence and creativity to read the mind of everyone present and tune the minds to act in a given specific manner.
Despite the striking similarities, it is worth noting that there are some differences that make these two types of leadership different and applicable in different set-ups. While servant leadership demands that a leader listens to the follower’s wishes and acts as per the demands, a charismatic leader would make followers act as per his or her desires. Boiche and Sarrazin (2009) say that whereas servant leadership takes an outward approach, charismatic leadership takes an inward outward approach.
In coaching, both strategies would be appropriate on different occasions. When time is limited and there is a need for quick results, charismatic leadership would be the most appropriate. If there were enough time for training and the coach would need as many opinions as may be available for trial purposes, then servant leadership would be the most applicable.
Laub’s Six Characteristics That Makeup Servant Leadership
Bardes, Mayer, and Piccolo (2008) discussed extensively the uniqueness of servant leadership from the theoretical and practical implications on the performance of business organizations, with displaying authenticity as one of the key issues to success in performance (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008; Greenleaf, 1977). Authenticity requires that an organizational leader creates an environment of trust, understands oneself to model behaviors that could influence team members positively by considering ethical values of team members, attempts to create hope which is the underlying motivation to perform, demonstrates optimism, and resilience that constitutes a positive psychological environment for team members as can be applied in sports (Gersh, 2006), Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett (2002).
When a parallel with sports on authenticity is drawn, the effects can be translated to sports to act as the baseline for motivating team members toward improving one’s performance with the ultimate driving force to achieve peak performance. Genuineness may provide significant contributions to team members developing an attitude that fosters the development of talent and cultivation of optimism toward better performance.
If the coach as a team leader effectively implements the concept, better performance could be realized, as working relationships between team members will improve. Current studies by Whetstone (2002), Annette, Joseph, and Clifford (2010) support the latter position and reinforce the need for organizations to identify the importance and implications of servant leadership on organizations (Banutu-Gomez, 2004).
The learning point here shows unparalleled implications for the servant leader in providing leadership services to lead, showing the significance of a coach in cultivating an environment of servanthood to be emulated by team members (Greenleaf, 1977).
These variables have not been shown how they empirically impact organizational performance but examined keenly could contribute positively to the psychological orientation of the coach and translate to each team member (Gersh, 2006; Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett, 2002). Covey (2008) defines the idea of a servant leader as a leader willing to serve and provide dependability instead of despair playing an example for those who want direction and purpose (Crippen, 2006; Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008; Hays, 2008; Hannay, 2009). No link was established to leadership in sports by earlier researchers a knowledge gap to fill today.
Research by a number of authors has shown that valuing people is an attribute with strong implications on organizational performance. Laub (1999) and Banutu-Gomez (2004) describe the positive attitude leaders develop in people when their sense of value prevails in one’s mind to contribute significantly toward stimulating a positive attitude in the direction of those who are led. Sustaining a positive attitude draws a parallel with the organizational influence of leaders who value job satisfaction as an organizational tool of motivating people on the path to working harder to achieve goals.
Building a positive team culture where coaches value athletes will place emphasis on the behavioral perspective of servant leadership that may influence the emotional and motivational perspective of a player leading to improved performance in sports (De Cremer, 2007).
From a behavioral perspective, the role of the servant leader is to instill trust in followers, modernize societies, and provide love for human values (De Cremer, 2007). A gap on the influence of change on developing the society has not been exhaustively researched; Andrew’s (2001) draws on findings to reinforce Banutu-Gomez’s (2004) findings. The connection becomes all too evident as sports teams thrive on how the coach values team members as emphasized by (Armstrong, 2001; Gross, 2004; Hatamleh, Abu Al-Ruz, & Hindawi, 2009).
Hays (2008) describes servant leadership as a way that a leader could profoundly respect other human beings and yet still operate to achieve organizational goals to bring about organizational change (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008; Bell & Habel, 2009). Bell and Habel (2009) concur that the agenda for change would consist of building congruence across the elements of one’s character and values in which they believe in. That congruence could have implications on the leadership approach a coach uses and one’s individual performance. That forms the basis for Baric and Bucik’s (2009) argument on motivating team members in sports, being consistent with leadership theories as argued by (Bass, 1990).
Extensively based on Greenleaf’s (1970) studies, servant leadership provides the basis for valuing others’ top priority. Servant leaders are committed to seeing the intrinsic value personally, professionally, and spiritually of each individual (Wilson, 1989; Bowman, 2000; Carter & Bloom, 2009). The point of emphasis for these studies includes the flexibility of servant leadership as a leadership tool for athletic coaches to show how far they value team members, a motivating factor to one’s devotion to team success, optimizing the behavioral characteristics of teams to optimize performance (Bass, 1990; Bowman, 2000; Bell & Habel, 2009). These contributions lack the modeling, power alignment, and pathfinding components where Green (1977) showed bias toward religious values such as compassion, service, and gratitude.
Current research shows the value of developing people is one of the servant leadership attributes shown to be a crucial component influencing organizational managers toward achieving success for people operating in teams. The case for sports borrows strongly from this concept where authors including Wageman (2001), Weese (1994); Werthner and Trudel (2006) have demonstrated the gains organizations make when leaders invest in developing organizational employees.
Developing athletes is best illustrated in sports when the coaches based on the servant leadership concepts invest one’s skills and knowledge to develop each team member’s skill-sets, conditioning levels, intellectual capabilities, and engage them in personal development reviews to take corrective measures to ensure positive contributions (Chelladurai, 1990). The servant-leader organizes athletes by empowering them to identify and determine performance improvement points and ensure individual roles and responsibilities. Servant leaders in that case motivate team members to move from one level of success by making team members feel the importance of one’s individual contribution toward team success.
Most good leaders in this case, as can be applied to coaches leading basketball teams are lifelong learners. That is in line with what Green (1977) asserted by viewing the benchmark test for a good servant leader is to motivate people toward realizing one’s full potential. Such development underlies the team leader’s ability to stimulate increased productivity, improved efficiency, and an improved competitive edge on team members.
In the leadership of today’s organizations with sports as the parallel, the possibility of reengineering, restructuring, and reorganizing organizations inculcates the sense of effectiveness in carrying out tasks at the management and individual levels. Each team member has a clear understanding of one’s obligations and takes ownership of the entire team tasks based on the underlying servant leadership role of developing people to play a pivotal role.
The parallel here uniquely applies to sports applying across both genders with special emphasis on Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams (Boroski & Greif, 2009). Another parallel with athletic teams demonstrates that when team members are developed, they realize one’s potential and desire to contribute to the success of the team in basketball with the aim of performing at one’s best. Success brings several other benefits to a team.
A common practice among human beings is that people work in teams to achieve the preferred results toward a shared goal (Whetstone, 2002; Smethers & Jenney, 2010). The underlying rationale is the synergy gained from team members. A significant number of team dynamics occur among teams and require the active participation of each team member and team leader. If players on teams actively get involved toward working to achieve a performance objective, a synergetic model adds value to one’s efforts collectively leading to better results. Such success can only be attained when the leader provides the required leadership ingredients toward that shared goal for the team members who coexist as a community (McCuddy & Cavin, 2008).
Working in teams has significantly been exemplified in the servant leadership style adopted in religion (Whetstone, 2002). People coexist in communities with individual members interdependently drawing upon the energy contributed by individuals toward attaining shared goals. Inter-dependence is based on God-like love, which is the Christian principle of loving one another (Whetstone, 2002; Smethers & Jenney, 2010). Drawing a parallel with sports, team members in basketball exist as communities with the underlying servant leadership principles governing individual and team development.
The coach who is the servant leader is not only emulated as a leader, but provides an environment that fosters persuasion, growth, inspiration, and accountability for team contributions to success. The team leader plays a significant role by establishing a positive relationship with team members, devoting self to identifying hidden talents in individuals in a team for one’s development, attempting and placing measures in place to ensure the best is captured out of others, showing the sense of forgiving others to relief psychologically related stresses among team members, devoting time and energy for the growth of others, and ensuring personal growth is cultivated in a team to realize individual and team potential (Jamison, 2005; Whetstone, 2002).
Providing leadership, as one of the servant leadership attributes in sports is the ability to influence team members to work hard to maximize the inner potential to the fullest and adds to the synergy to excel (Annette, Joseph, & Clifford, 2010). An athletic coach servant leader endowed with intelligence, vision, values, appropriate behavior, provides the necessary social influence and direction to team members to work toward a shared goal (De Cremer, 2007).
In sports, team members have intrinsic values and emotional feelings that can be influenced by the team leader based on one’s moods, affective tones, and group processes to expend individual efforts toward effectiveness (Jamison, 2005). The athletic coach’s servant leader when convinced of the appropriateness of the direction provided on team member’s influences affective events to influence team behavior and attitude toward the leader and ultimate influence on one’s performance according to (Bird, 1977). The servant leader in this case draws on appropriate task allocations, resource utilization, and feedback on issues related to team leadership (Chen, Sharma, Edinger, Shapiro, & Farh, 2011).
On athletic teams, unity is crucial to success, interpersonal relationships play a significant role in the task executions, and the united ability is inculcated in team members to develop followership to follow the lead of the leader (Fagenson-Eland, 2001). The ultimate success in the performance of the team draws on the above directions provided by the team leader by leading athletes in different aspects of team development. The athletic coach provides direction to ensure success by motivating them through listening, positive praise, and providing other forms of direction toward achieving specified goals (Vinod & Sudhakar, 2011). Robbins, Houston, & Dummer (2010) emphasize the importance of the contributions made by the leader to exercise direction, establish relations, and communicate expectations to stimulate followership.
Current studies including cited authors show that organizational performance is a prerequisite and measure successful organizations on the ability to maximize participation and employee involvement for individuals and teams members working in such organizations (Trompenaars & Voerman, 2009). To achieve organizational success based on individual and team performance, the servant-leader shares leadership, which is one of the unique leadership attributes in pursuing organizational and team goals. The role of the coach as a servant leader is to infuse team effectiveness to attain high levels of efficacy by creating a well-functioning team on the basketball court (Annette, Joseph, & Clifford, 2010).
The servant-leader identifies the purpose and leads by prioritizing activities that lead to effective team performance. The athletic coach as a servant leader ensures team effectiveness as a prerequisite to better performance with the aim of pursuing the ultimate goal of achieving peak performance by specifying certain roles and responsibilities to team members (Hayward, Neill, & Peterson, 2007). Servant leaders must make decisions by sharing leadership with various team members who together will decide on the preferred actions, roles, and responsibilities each team member will account for measured up to the unique qualities of each team member to foster collective responsibility.
The coach does not own leadership, but remains proactive in identifying the preferred approach to share leadership toward pursuing success with a win-win perspective where the preferred solutions have positive implications on the leader and team members. Issues like forces in teams that have negative or positive implications on the performance of the team are best handled at the team level where each decision made reflects team norms, effectiveness, and the desire to succeed. Success is reflected in a harmonious leadership that results from the servant leadership approach the coach employs in sports without any use of force or coercion (Trompenaars & Voerman, 2009).
Similarities and Gaps in Literature
Literature on servant leadership with special reference to coaching leadership in sports for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball has similarities and gaps that the current study seeks to fill. Many authors including Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett (2002) on the servant leadership style provide perspectives on how best the leadership style fits into different organizational backgrounds, with no reference to the servant leadership style for coaches in sports (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008).
In the context of the current study, the author agrees with other authors on the definition of servant leadership style as used in many business organizations, but falls short of finding any definition bias to the servant leadership in sports. On extensive analysis and exploration of available literature, the definition by other authors on servant leadership agrees with the findings of this paper’s author. The working definition commonly agreed upon draws from what Spears (2009) defines as a “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (p.20).
The study seeks to explore how servant leadership has been successful and how to apply the leadership style to succeed in sports to achieve coaching excellence. Underlying the inquiry is conducting studies on the historical perspective of leadership, which the author draws on the knowledge of different authors, and how it may connect with successful leadership in sports. The author of the study and other authors referenced in the paper commonly agree upon the historical perspectives.
There is a gap identified in the knowledge on the historical background of leadership in sports especially for women in basketball. The core element in the study is in achieving coaching excellence, which underlies the study of defining whatever comprises a successful coach. The author draws on literature MacLean and Chelladurai (1995), Leland (1988), and LeUnes and Nation (2002) in identifying the preferred leadership approach an athletic coach may use to prepare a team to play to achieve the preferred performance.
The contention in the case is team preparedness. The current study has shown weaknesses in addressing the issue of team preparedness, how to deal with the forces inside teams, how to overcome team conflicts and team dynamics in general. Basketball teams are often composed of athletes from different backgrounds, beliefs, and values. Here, the authors referenced in the study and the current study conducted minimal literature and depth of scholarship applied to the athletic arena.
The author synthesized the literature on defining successful coaches, systems to train coaches, models of leadership in sports, gender differences in coaching styles, and women in leadership with the servant leadership style to discover the preferred leadership style for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. With regard to servant leadership style and women in leadership, the author has discovered gaps in the behavioral characteristics of women and men, and the likely implications on the leadership style to achieve coaching excellence.
The gaps in the above literature were identifying how each of the elements could be integrated into sports leadership literature to provide the preferred leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. In addition to contributing knowledge on the preferred approach for a leader to exemplify servant leadership characteristics and how one may use core attributes to achieve peak performance in athletic leadership.
A detailed discussion of the servant leadership six characteristics as coined by Greenleaf (1977) of “displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building communities, providing leadership, and sharing leadership” (p.20) were discussed in detail and the author discovered the authenticity to be an element that could improve team performance, the knowledge that was in agreement with studies by Whetstone (2002), Annette, Joseph, and Clifford (2010), among others.
The author in the current study discovered the implications of authenticity on team performance based on the desire to serve others. The study further demonstrated the implications valuing people has on the performance of athletic teams. Other findings with similarities with other authors included the element of developing people based on the roles and responsibilities associated with team leaders. Other leadership qualities such as building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership were in agreement with the findings the author established with the research discovered.
To gain the best knowledge on why servant leadership is the preferred leadership style to achieve peak performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the author conducted a comparative study with other leadership styles to share differences and similarities in the literature.
Research results showed the leadership literature by authors of the servant, autocratic, transactional, transformational, situational, ethical, inspirational, and charismatic, leadership literature was similar to the knowledge of the author of the current study. In that regard, the differences between other leadership styles and the servant leadership style crystallized quickly and indicated the unsuitability of the leadership styles compared with the servant leadership style for the leadership in sports with special reference for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.
When combining the theoretical and practical aspects of servant leadership with special reference to Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the author took the study further by studying leadership models used in sports. Once again there is a high need for new literature due to the limited amount of literature sharing various leadership styles athletic coaches are using in sports. The leadership models in sports were used as the foundation where knowledge on servant leadership could be merged with literature on leadership models to discover preferred practices or themes directly correlated with coaches’ win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates. The underlying rationale provided the basis for merging the knowledge sources to discover which leadership style would also work best to achieve coaching excellence in sports.
Special emphasis in the current study is the literature on servant leadership style, which may be regarded as the preferred leadership style for coaches in sports to achieve coaching excellence. In the context of the servant leadership style, Laub’s (1999) and Spears (2009), among other authors have provided not only the definition of servant leadership but developed a scale that organizations can use to measure the effectiveness of the servant leadership style and the consistencies of organizational leaders in complying with the six characteristics of the servant leadership. The study established the facts on the servant leadership style to revolve around six characteristics which include “displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building communities, providing leadership, and sharing leadership” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 20).
Toward enabling effective leadership, in turn, enables employees to work to the fullest potential to achieve the preferred performance in organizations. The findings fell short of demonstrating the significance and applicability of the six servant leadership characteristics in sports and specifically for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Here, the current study attempted to connect the six characteristics with leadership in sports and endeavored to show how the six characteristics are critical in maximizing team success.
Research literature has been presented by multiple authors on servant leadership and various leadership styles used in a variety of settings. Literature has identified a gap researchers must fill to explain what it takes to be a successful coach, how coaches may improve leadership practices, which models are most effective, which characteristics make up successful coaches, and what styles of leadership are being used in today’s coaching arena to achieve coaching excellence.
Leadership is very important in every aspect of life. There are various models of leadership that a given leader can use in a given organization or group. The applicability of the servant leadership style has been identified from the historical, organizational, and current trends with an analogy in sports and the relative comparisons with other leadership styles established to showcase various strengths and weaknesses.
The key strengths include, “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21), which underlie coaching leadership the literature review has identified central to the coach providing leadership toward achieving coaching excellence in sports.
To that end, the literature review draws on different authors to answer the research question on the extent to the six servant leadership characteristics influence the performance of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the relative implications of different leadership styles including transactional and autocratic leadership style with servant leadership style on coaches leadership and team performance, the contribution of the servant leadership style to coaches success, and how the servant leadership style leads to the achievement of coaching excellence in sports.
The contributions of servant leadership to answering the questions are significantly pivoted in the eight servant leadership characteristics as analogs to sports. Authors including Case (1984), Chelladurai and Saleh (1980), Pratt and Eitzen (1989), Wren (1995), Anderson and Gill (1983) discuss gender in sports, have been featured with contributions, on gender and leadership with key findings showing that gender does not impede on leadership performance.
The case with Barnett, Smoll, and Smith (1992), Greenleaf (1977), Gersh (2006), Dimec and Kajtna (2009), Fifer (2006) on coaching leadership and motivational implications on team performance has been discussed, where Bass (1985) correlates leadership to performance among other authors. Theory and practice are interlinked with one’s implications on leadership (Bird, 1977). Authors including Heydarinejad and Adman (2010), among others provide current trends to the servant leadership style.
The proposed study will attempt to identify, through the perceptions of women’s NCAA Division II college basketball student-athletes and coaches, potential explanations of various leadership practices and strategies within the servant leadership model that could then be employed by coaches to assist student-athletes and teams in achieving peak performance. The Organizational Leadership Assessment Scale formulated by Laub (1999) will form the benchmark for evaluating the six servant leadership characteristics as demonstrated by the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches.
Specifically, the study will use a qualitative case study method to explore Women’s NCAA Division II basketball student-athletes and coaches’ perceptions of how the six characteristics of servant leadership in Dr. Laub’s Leadership Assessment Scale are linked to successful coaching and their extent of influence in coaching practice. A strand of existing literature (e.g., Baxter & Jack, 2008; Tight, 2010) demonstrates that the qualitative case study methodology is increasingly being used by scholars in the social sciences and other humanistic fields to study complex phenomena within their contexts (Baxter & Jack, 2008; Tight, 2010).
As noted in Yin (1994), “a case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” (p. 13). Extant methodology literature demonstrates that case studies are not only useful in providing responses to ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ questions, but also in exploratory, descriptive or explanatory research (Perry, 1998; Rowley, 2002), and in understanding contemporary events when the relevant behavior cannot be manipulated or modified by the researcher (Lloyd-Jones, 2003).
In keeping with the tradition of qualitative approaches, it is possible for a researcher to use case study research to collect and integrate quantitative survey data into a qualitative study, which then facilitates reaching a holistic and informed understanding of the phenomenon under investigation (Baxter & Jack, 2008). In the proposed study, the researcher will integrate quantitative data from Dr. Laub’s Leadership Assessment scale into a qualitative case study with the view to gaining an understanding of various leadership practices and strategies within the servant leadership model that may be used by coaches to assist student-athletes and teams in achieving peak performance.
This chapter is organized as follows: it begins with an elucidation of the research questions guiding the study, before describing the research design, research methodology and appropriateness, as well as population and sampling for the study. Afterward, issues touching on the protection of human subjects, data collection procedures, and instrumentation will be addressed, before illuminating validity and reliability concerns as well as providing a synopsis of data analysis procedures. The chapter concludes by providing a summary of all the procedures, approaches, methodologies and aspects employed to guide the research process.
The research questions posed in this study address issues associated with establishing the preferred leadership style or those in alignment with the servant leadership model for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Qualitative data acquisition will provide the underlying direction to determine the influence on organizational performance with a special reference to Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership. The first research question will determine the extent to which the sample population is considered in this study committed to authenticity and extending characteristics toward the student-athletes. It is important to consider the level of integrity, self-respect, and transparency in order to obtain relevant data for analysis and interpretation (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2006).
Research question one provides a methodological framework, which prompts the study to investigate, further the leadership skills that enable coaches to value student-athletes in terms of believing in one’s potential and advancing selflessness. The first question will provide a methodological ground to investigate the willingness of the sample population to develop student-athletes cognitively, affectively, and physically. Consideration will focus on the parameters as to how the coaches are developing student-athletes and ones potential, providing mentorship, and teaching toward developing the whole person.
The first question will present a framework that seeks to measure the willingness and ability of the coaches to build a community of learning and a sense of community by forging new knowledge, relationships, and a synergistic culture among the team. Question four will provide a select methodological opportunity to identify the ability and willingness of the coaches in exposing their learners to foreign interactions that facilitate new knowledge and relationships (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2006).
In the first research question, data collection will need to occur in order to determine the level of leadership that is exhibited by the coaches while guiding their student-athletes futuristic autonomy using limitations that include creating high self-esteem, projecting a vision, and initiating a structured goal-setting process.
The first research question will investigate the coaches’ ability to share leadership in order to transform student-athletes into leaders rather than followers. This will be investigated on the methodological platform, which includes the ability to empower student-athletes through ownership and sharing the leadership role through humility. Based on the methodological rationale the six research questions are the basis of collecting data, analyzing, and interrupting to discover guiding factors and patterns in behavior from the collection of coaches.
The second research question provides a framework that seeks to identify and understand other leadership practices, strategies and paradigms that may be outside the scope of Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership, but are nevertheless practiced by Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches in leading student-athletes and teams.
This question is focused on promoting the study to investigate further on other leadership skills beyond the servant leadership model that may either be forming the basis for coaching leadership in sports or acting as hindrances to effective coaching practices and strategies among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. It is believed that developing a detailed understanding of these leadership practices using a qualitative case study paradigm will be beneficial for comparison purposes with the servant leadership model, in making recommendations to improve coaching leadership and practice, and also in identifying shortcomings in basketball coaching leadership.
- RQ1: How have the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches shown they exhibit the characteristic of (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership), which is based on the six characteristics of Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment used to define servant leadership?
- RQ2: What practices, strategies, or methods of the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches do not align with Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership?
The underlying objective of the proposed study is to gain a deeper understanding of the various leadership characteristics and practices in the knowledge of female student-athletes and coaches, with the view to identifying preferred leadership styles that may be used to coach female student-athletes and basketball teams within the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball. This objective qualifies the qualitative research method to be used in answering the key research questions as “qualitative research stresses the socially constructed nature of reality, the relationship between the researcher and what is being studied, and the situational constraints that shape reality, while quantitative research emphasizes the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes” (Welford et al., 2012 p. 29).
Even more significant, employing a qualitative research method in this study will assist with the collection of rich in-depth descriptions of various leadership characteristics and practices by documenting, describing and identifying patterns, concepts and relationships between the various elements of leadership styles demonstrated or preferred by the sampled participants (Biel et al., 2007).
By using a qualitative research method, the researcher will also have leeway to generate theoretical explanations that seek to not only explain reality, but also link the explored elements of quality leadership to the six-servant leadership characteristics developed in 1999 by Laub, namely displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership (Laub, 1999).
A strand of existing scholarship (e.g., Morse & Field, 1996; Polit et al., 2001) demonstrates that qualitative research is inductive by virtue of being directed toward bringing knowledge into view, descriptive by virtue of naming phenomena and positioning relationships, natural by virtue of being conducted in a naturalistic setting that considers context as components of the phenomena, and flexible by virtue of its capacity to merge various data collection strategies or methods. Burns and Grove (2001) acknowledge “there is no single reality in qualitative research, reality changes over time and that meaning are contextual and situational” (p. 30).
All these attributes will be central in answering key study questions by providing the capacity to not only investigate and explore important leadership elements within the context of the preferred servant leadership model and in the participants natural settings and own assessments, but also to identify and name the exhibiting leadership styles and position relationships among them, with the view to getting a deeper understanding of the various leadership characteristics and practices that could be used in coaching Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball to facilitate the achievement of peak performance in individual-athletes and teams.
Research Methodology and Appropriateness
The present research provides disjointed and often contradictory results regarding the most preferred leadership style that can be used in sports settings to facilitate effectiveness and competitiveness among individual athletes as well as teams of athletes (Walker & Bopp, 2010). Consequently, a case study methodology will be used to provide a deeper understanding of this complex phenomenon within the context of Women’s NCAA Division II basketball, with the view to discovering what leadership elements and practices could be used to drive peak performance among female student-athletes and teams.
When applied correctly, the case method approach not only affords the researcher opportunities to explore or describe a phenomenon in context using a variety of data sources, hence allowing for multiple facets of the phenomenon to be revealed and understood (Baxter & Jack, 2008), but also provides the capacity to investigate a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident (Yin, 1994).
In the context of the proposed study, a case study approach will avail the best framework to answer the key research questions due to its reliance on subjective, explanatory, exploratory and descriptive approaches than scientific measures (Lloyd-Jones, 2003; Scott & Russell, 2005), and also due to its primary focus on providing an in-depth context-dependent understanding of how the different leadership styles are experienced or preferred by participants rather than merely providing a general, theoretical (context-independent) knowledge (Tight, 2010).
Although the literature on case study research is not conclusive, it is evident that there are different types of case studies. While Yin (1994) categorizes case studies as explanatory, exploratory or descriptive, and also makes a distinction between single, holistic cases studies and multiple-case studies, Stake (1995) identifies case studies as intrinsic, instrumental, or collective.
Drawing on the categorization and also based on the purpose of the proposed study, we argue that this qualitative case study is exploratory in nature and scope, and will utilize a multiple-case study approach since the researcher is interested in exploring and comparing leadership practices and characteristics across four different Women’s NCAA Division II basketball teams (48-80 student-athletes) and coaches. Available literature demonstrates that an exploratory qualitative case study “is used to explore those situations in which the intervention being evaluated has no clear, single set of outcomes” (Baxter & Jack, 2008 p. 548).
It is difficult to come up with a clear, single set of outcomes when dealing with the leadership styles phenomenon, hence the justification to use exploration. Additionally, it has been documented in the literature that a multiple case study assists the investigator to explore differences within and between cases, with the underlying objective of replicating findings across cases (Baxter & Jack, 2008). Yin (2003) cited extensively in Baxter and Jack (2008) argues that because comparisons will be drawn in a multiple case study approach, “it is imperative that the cases are chosen carefully so that the researcher can predict similar results across cases, or predict contrasting results based on the theory” (p. 548). As such, the multiple qualitative case study approach will assist with exploring, identifying and developing an understanding of the most important elements that form preferred leadership styles within the sport context from across several cases chosen carefully by the researcher.
In the context of the proposed study, case study research has distinct advantages over other qualitative methodologies, such as phenomenology, grounded theory, and ethnography. Existing methodology scholarship demonstrates that a case study is appropriate in the context of the proposed research because
- the focus of the study is to answer “how” and “why” questions,
- the researcher has no capacity to manipulate the behavior of the sampled Women’s NCAA Division II basketball student-athletes and coaches,
- the researcher wants to cover contextual conditions because it is believed they are of fundamental importance to the leadership phenomenon under study, and
- the boundaries are not clear between the leadership phenomenon under study and other contextual variables (Baxter & Jack, 2008).
It is important to note that the underlying context is NCAA Division II basketball, and more specifically NCAA Division II basketball teams from the Peach Belt Conference. It is in these settings that various leadership characteristics, practices and strategies are developed and implemented. When comparisons are made, there is compelling evidence to argue that grounded theory can only be used to explain a given social situation (Morse & Field, 1996), whereas ethnographies take a long time to effectively be able to study people in their own natural settings (Wahyuni, 2012).
Another advantage is that while data for other qualitative studies such as the grounded theory come from a multitude of sources, hence wakening the rigor of research (Creswell, 2007), it is possible to collect and integrate quantitative survey data into a qualitative study using the case study approach, which then facilitates reaching a holistic understanding of the phenomenon under investigation (Baxter & Jack, 2008). This capability explains why the researcher is using Dr. Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument, which is quantitative in focus, to collect data for a qualitative case study.
Population and Sampling
The population has been defined in the literature as the group from whom the study population is drawn (Creswell, 2007), or the total members of a defined class of individuals, objects, places or events selected by a researcher in the process of conducting a research study owing to the fact that they are relevant to the stated research questions (Morse & Field, 1996).
Owing to the fact that the purpose of the proposed study is to discover various leadership characteristics and practices among different leadership styles demonstrated by basketball coaches as per the servant leadership model, the first study population will comprise four NCAA Division II head basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) located throughout Georgia (Armstrong Atlantic State University, Clayton State University, Georgia College, and Young Harris College).
The coaches are made up of varied ethnicities, qualifications, training, education, and gender. The second population will consist of approximately 48-80 NCAA Division II student-athletes from the Peach Belt Conference with a vast array of ethnicities, values, education, backgrounds, all of female gender.
The inclusion (eligibility) criteria for the two study populations include the following dimensions:
NCAA Division II head basketball coaches
- Demonstration of adequate knowledge on leadership and leadership styles;
- Coaches must be 21 years or older;
- Coaches may be of either gender;
- Coaches must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of leadership styles;
- Coaches must be strictly drawn from the PBC geographical area, and;
- Coaches must demonstrate a willingness to take part in the study.
NCAA Division II female student-athletes
- Female student-athletes must be 18 years or older;
- Participants must be strictly drawn from the PBC geographical area, and;
- Participants must demonstrate a willingness to take part in the study.
Extant literature demonstrates that “choosing a study sample is an important step in any research project since it is rarely practical, efficient or ethical to study whole populations” (Marshall, 1996 p. 522). The underlying objective of quantitative sampling strategies is premised on drawing a representative sample from the population that is of interest to others so that the outcomes of studying the sample can then be generalized back into the population; however, most qualitative sampling strategies are predicated upon providing illumination and understanding of complex issues or phenomena of interest to the researcher, and hence are most purposeful in providing answers to the humanistic “why?” and “how?” inquiries (Creswell, 2007).
In his discussion of the case study methodology, Stake (1994) extensively cited in Curtis et al (2000) “distinguishes between intrinsic casework (where the case is pre-specified, not chosen because a particular case is the focus of the research question); and instrumental or collective casework, requiring one or more cases to be chosen from a number of possible alternatives in order to explore a research theme” (p. 1002).
Yin (1994) makes a distinction between a single case study and a multiple case study, suggesting that it should be the function of the researcher to consider if it is prudent to conduct a single case study or if a better comprehension of the phenomenon under study will be gained through undertaking a multiple case study. Drawing on these assertions, it is of importance to make a proper selection of cases owing to the fact that the proposed study utilizes the instrumental or a multiple case study framework.
In light of objective and owing to the fact that the study uses the instrumental or multiple case study framework, it appears that purposeful (judgmental) sampling approach is best suited to assist the researcher in the careful selection of cases owing to its capacity to identify the most productive and knowledgeable samples that could then be used to provide answers to the study objective and key research questions (Curtis et al., 2000).
The first sample will include four Women’s NCAA Division II coaches with diverse ethnic makeup, gender, age, and educational background, all four coaches will be interviewed with the semi-structured interview guide. It is also important to note that in the collection of data from the second sample of 48-80 female student-athletes, the qualitative method selected will draw on behavioral responses on the six characteristics of the servant leadership style as illustrated in Luab’s Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument.
The purposive sampling technique has a distinct advantage over other non-probability sampling techniques in this type of study because it enables a focus on individuals who share particular characteristics or possess unique knowledge in particular areas (Creswell, 2007).
In the proposed study, purposive sampling will generate rich contextual data on various leadership styles that could be used by coaches to achieve peak performance among individual student-athletes as well as teams, in large part due to the fact that the sample possess unique knowledge on leadership approaches and practices, and also shares particular characteristics that are coalesced around the fact that they belong to unique basketball teams and hence are able to reflect on their preferences in a leadership that has the capacity to enable female student-athletes to achieve peak performance.
Protection of Human Subjects
An informed consent form will be provided to the female student-athletes before the commencement of data collection exercise to seek permission to include them in the study as per the guidelines set out by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and other agencies that provide guidelines regarding the participation of human participants in a research study. Participants will complete an informed consent form to participate in the study based on a clear appreciation and comprehension of the facts, implications and potential implications that may be generated by the act of participating in the study, implying that the student-athletes concerned must demonstrate sufficient reasoning faculties and be in control of all pertinent facts at the time of giving consent.
Confidentiality is crucial in any research as it provides the student-athletes with the confidence that third parties cannot use the information provided. Emphasis on confidentiality will reinforce to the student-athletes that their information provided will be used in confidence for the purpose of this study without any disclosure except at the express permission of the student-athletes. All data generated from the study will be destroyed after 3 years.
The proposed study will cover four women’s NCAA Division II basketball programs from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) located throughout Georgia (Armstrong Atlantic State University, Clayton State University, Georgia College, and Young Harris College) to obtain data that could be generally applicable to college basketball programs. The main assumption here is that the results and demographic characteristics are applicable across all-female basketball teams. That will be in addition to allowing the use of the diversity of participants from different ethnic backgrounds and environments with the benefit of using the Internet to provide the flexibility of gathering large amounts of data from the mentioned geographic location.
Data collection for the proposed study will be through Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) instrument and face-to-face interviews, with a focus on a semi-structured interview approach. While the OLA instrument has the capacity to collect quantitative data on coaching behaviors through the student-athlete eyes, which will later be interpreted qualitatively according to the study purpose and key research questions (Lloyd-Jones, 2003; Tight 2010), the interviews will provide adequate leverage to not only allow free flow of information as the Women’s Division II basketball coaches provide a holistic account of their leadership practices and experiences but also to ensure unclear responses are probed further through follow-up questions to seek a deeper understanding in line with the case study tradition (Creswell, 2007; Baxter & Jack, 2008).
The OLA instrument as developed by Laub (1999) attempts to measure servant leadership characteristics among the teams and leadership in general without making reference to servant leadership. The instrument was developed after the realization of a fundamental need to come up with a way to evaluate the level at which followers and leaders perceive the presence of servant leadership characteristics (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) within an organization (Laub, 1999).
Consequently, this may be accomplished through one’s capacity to measure specific characteristics of the sampled Women’s NCAA Division II basketball student-athletes and coaches within the Peach Belt Conference using “a written, measurable instrument” (Stone et al., 2004 p. 358). Current literature demonstrates that semi-structured interviews are non-standardized data collection tools mostly used in qualitative research studies, where the researcher exercises discretion to ask the questions in any particular manner and also to seek clarifications if the responses provided are not clear (Houghton et al., 2013).
Student-athletes will first be requested to rate leadership styles, preferences, characteristics and practices against Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument to provide a glimpse of how leadership is practiced within Women’s Division II basketball settings (see appendix F for the instrument). Responses from the assessment instrument will be entered on the www.olagroup.com website and data will be used to distinguish elements of servant leadership from those of non-servant leadership. The OLA Group will compile the data and provide a detailed report to support data collection.
It is plausible to note that the initial Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument as developed by Laub comprised “33 leadership assessment items, 27 organization assessment items, and six items that sought to assess job satisfaction” (Joseph & Winston, 2005 p. 13). According to these authors, the instrument employs a Lickert-type scale anchored on both ends of the continuum by “strongly agree” and “strongly disagree” items; hence it’s a practical approach to distinguishing between servant leadership and non-servant leadership characteristics and practices.
The other justification for using the instrument is predicated upon the fact that it has proved to be reliable and valid in measuring servant leadership attributes in previous studies (Joseph & Winston, 2005). Responses from the instrument will be shared with participants with the view to identifying the implications of their ratings upon the coaching practices and approaches used among the teams.
The semi-structured interview will then be administered to the four coaches not only for the purpose of gaining an in-depth understanding of leadership and leadership styles preferred by these 48-80 female student-athletes for peak performance in sport settings but also to provide reliable, comparative qualitative data (Creswell, 2007), which can then be used by the researcher to identify context-dependent (practical) leadership knowledge in line with the case study tradition (Flyvbierg, 2006).
During the data collection process, awareness should occur to capture the most pertinent leadership elements as described by the coaches from their own experience (for the semi-structured interview guide, see appendix G). The interview guide will facilitate a platform for availing participants to reflect on how their student-athletes may have rated themselves on Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment Scale and how this relates to their leadership experiences.
The essence of this exercise will be to discover important leadership elements as described by the coaches through one’s lived experience and then compare them with elements contained in Laub’s leadership assessment instrument to come up with the preferred leadership style within the context of servant leadership. All the responses resulting from the interviews with the coaches will be tape-recorded and then transcribed using available applications (Morse & Field, 1996), before being analyzed and interpreted to answer the study’s key research questions. If needed, availability will be made optional for the coaches to request a follow-up session to seek clarification for unclear responses or questions they have.
The justifications for using semi-structured interview guides to collect data in the proposed qualitative case study are many and varied. Since a case study methodology is basically concerned with providing a deeper understanding of a phenomenon in its natural context (Houghton et al., 2013), semi-structured interviews are best suited for use to collect data in the proposed study owing to the fact that they provide a systematic way through which the researcher can engage one-on-one with participants to gain a deeper insight into the various leadership styles and how they influence peak performance among individuals as well as teams (Tight, 2010).
Additionally, semi-structured interviews will facilitate adequate leverage to “explore, probe, and ask questions that will elucidate and illuminate that particular subject [and also] to build a conversational style but with a focus on a particular subject that has been predetermined” (Kajornboon, n.d. p. 6). Other data collection such as questionnaire schedules or structured interviews has no capacity to guarantee these benefits.
Seidman’s protocol will be used to schedule the interview visits, each approximately 45 minutes in length. Extant research demonstrates that “Seidman’s interview protocol provides a means for understanding the experience of other people and the meaning they make of that experience” (Seidman, 1998 p. 3).
Although Seidman’s protocol recommends three interviews to collect data in qualitative research studies (Mason, 2002), a focused intention will be made to conduct a single semi-structured interview with each coach due to time and financial constraints. Not only does Seidman’s interview protocol afford the opportunity for the coaches to review and self-assess their current experiences in-depth and in the contextual framework that demonstrates the intricate factors that have brought the coaches to their present situation, hence allowing for an adequate understanding of the phenomenon and other contextual variables to occur, but it also provides a window into the respondent’s life, which can assist the investigator to understand the phenomenon under investigation through the respondent’s eyes (Mason, 2002).
In this context, the discovery of successful leadership practices and strategies used by Women’s basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) representing NCAA Division II may be brought into perspective while adopting Laub’s (1999) six characteristics of servant leadership found in his Organizational Leadership Assessment Instrument.
Prior to the commencement of data collection, a pilot study will be conducted with two female basketball coaches from two local junior universities (Atlanta Metropolitan College and Georgia Perimeter College) to test the administration procedures using the description of Laub’s six characteristics of servant leadership and the semi-structured interview guide. It is anticipated that the pilot study will provide an opportunity to not only assess the research design and polish interviewing skills, but also to receive helpful feedback from the coaches regarding the research process, data collection, data analysis, and interviewing process.
The pilot study will also assist the researcher to know the exact time that each interview may take in the actual data collection exercise and how he will go about framing the questions for ease of understanding. It is important to note that participation in the pilot study will be on a voluntary basis and the coaches will be supplied the same introduction letter, informed consent form, and confidentiality letter for approval and protection.
Organizational Leadership Assessment Instrument
Extant literature demonstrates that instrumentation in qualitative research studies is an extremely important undertaking as it minimizes or eliminates personal biases and focuses attention on abstracting the experiences and perceptions of participants with the view to enhancing the credibility of the research process (van Mannen, 2001). The semi-structured interview guide will be formulated based on existing leadership literature that has been comprehensively evaluated in chapter two. Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) scale will be employed during the formulation of the data collection tool to ensure that it will have the capacity to investigate various leadership paradigms and approaches without undue influence or biases.
According to Joseph and Winston (2005), “the (OLA), a 66-item instrument initially called the Servant Organization Leadership Assessment, was developed by Laub (1999) to distinguish servant leadership from non-servant leadership” (p. 13). The scale is a statistically reliable means for evaluating servant leadership in an organizational setting (Cronbach’s an of 0.98) not only consisting of 33 leader assessment items, 27 organizational assessment items, and six items that seek to evaluate job satisfaction levels but also using a five-point Lickert scale anchored on the ends by key evaluation elements including “(0 = No response or Undecided, 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3= Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5= Strongly Agree)” (p. 13). “to distinguish between servant leadership and non-servant leadership” (Joseph & Winston, 2005, p. 8).
The characteristics include “displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership” (Laub, 1999, p. 13). In the proposed study, the scale will be used to measure the perceptions about leadership coaching in sports. Emphasis will be placed on distinguishing between servant leadership and non-servant leadership practices and characteristics among the participants by determining the mean scores on the 33 leader assessment items and 27 organizational (team) assessment items. The six items included by Laub to measure job satisfaction will be eliminated during analysis to facilitate a more focused servant leadership score among the participating basketball coaches.
Items that will garner a mean score of 4.00 or above will be deemed as servant leadership-oriented, whereas those that will get a mean score of less than 4.00 will be deemed as non-servant leadership-oriented. The instrument has been widely used by scholars (e.g., Joseph & Winston, 2005; Washington et al., 2006) not only due to its reliability and validity (Cronbach’s an of 0.98) but also due to its capacity to define specific attributes and characteristics of the servant leadership concept; although, the instrument has received criticism from a number of scholars (e.g., Dennis & Bocarnea, 2005; Stone et al., 2004) for incapacity to demonstrate the relationship between values and servant leadership.
Semi-Structured Interview Guide
In formulating the items to be included in the semi-structured interview guide, it will be critical to include key elements to assist in investigating the preferred leadership style that may be used by coaches within Women’s NCAA Division II basketball context to achieve peak performance among individual student-athletes and teams. It is important to note that each of these attributes has been evaluated against existing literature and found to be important constructs underlying the definition of the servant leadership style. The specific interview guide items will revolve around requesting coaches to reflect on
- how they employ known servant leadership attributes including displaying authenticity, valuing people, building community, providing leadership, sharing leadership, and developing people,
- which of these attributes are most important in developing effective leadership style in coaching sports and why they think these attributes are important, and
- the core values and motivational methods in leadership that they routinely use to enhance their respective teams toward peak performance.
As already mentioned, Seidman’s protocol will be used to schedule the interview visits, each approximately 45 minutes in length. The coaches will be involved in selecting the interview setting of their own choice.
The main objective of the proposed study is to set forth, through the perceptions of women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams and coaches, potential explanations of what is the preferred leadership style among different leadership styles that can be used in NCAA Division II college basketball competitions to assist student-athletes and teams to achieve peak performance. Being oriented toward a qualitative case study methodology, the major assumption is that if the preferred leadership style for women’s coaches in charge of NCAA Division II college basketball teams truly exists, then the experiences of the people most closely related to positions of leadership will add valuable insights into gaining a deeper understanding of such a leadership style.
It is important to note that the underlying objective of qualitative case study research is to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon under investigation in its natural context (Houghton et al., 2013), and also to allow for an in-depth exploration of events, phenomena, or other observations within a real-life context (natural environment) for purposes of investigation, theory development and testing, or basically as a tool for acquiring knowledge (Flyvbierg, 2006).
Consequently, the instrumentation is fundamental in qualitative case study research to collect data by focusing on gaining a deeper understanding of the true perceptions and viewpoints of student-athletes and coaches from their own set of lenses, hence curtailing researcher bias (Tight, 2010). In the proposed study, various leadership elements included in Laub’s Leadership Assessment Scale (displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) will be adopted and used to guide the data collection exercise by comparing student-athletes responses to the elements contained in the scale (Laub, 1999).
Invalidation, existing literature demonstrates that “making reference (anonymously, of course) to statements made in other interviews or to findings based on other data sources can be a good way to encourage the coaches to express themselves…It is also useful for validating information already gathered” (Laforest, 2009 p. 4). Validation of the semi-structured interview guide will therefore be done by constructing the items in the interview guide around previous literature regarding leadership styles and women’s leadership in sports. A comprehensive review of leadership literature has already been done in the preceding chapter.
Validity and Reliability
Most qualitative studies require researchers to adequately address the arising validity concerns of trustworthiness of the research findings, especially in the context of credibility, confirmability, dependability, and transferability (Creswell, 2007). The study’s credibility will be guaranteed by ensuring that the research method and approaches are adhered to, with the view to ensuring that a true picture of the phenomenon under study (preferred leadership characteristics and practices that could be used in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams under the servant leadership model) is presented.
Transferability will be ensured through the provision of enough information on fieldwork activities to give the reader an idea if the prevailing environmental context is similar to another one, which he or she is aware of. It also shows if the study findings can reasonably be applied to another setting. Shenton (2004) notes that to address confirmability concerns, “steps must be taken to help ensure as far as possible that the work’s findings are the result of the experiences and ideas of the informants, rather than the characteristics and preferences of the researcher” (p. 72). Consequently, this study will use data triangulation and reduction strategies to minimize the adverse effects of investigator bias and hence achieve confirmability.
To keep with the tradition of research studies using Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment, a focused intention will be made to obtain the compiled data from the OLA Group to begin analyzing and interpreting data formulated from the student-athletes Organizational Leadership Assessment surveys. In line with qualitative case study research, data generated from the semi-structured interview will be “analyzed using Morse’s (1994) analytical framework, which outlines four important stages: comprehension, synthesis, theorizing and re-contextualization” (Houghton et al., 2013 p. 13).
It is important to mention that these steps will be attained “using the strategies proposed by Miles and Huberman (1994) which include the following: open coding, broad coding, pattern coding, memoing, distilling and ordering, testing executive summaries, developing propositions” (Houghton et al., 2013 p. 13). All the data will be managed using the software NVivo 8, which has been proved to be an effective data management tool owing to its capacity to provide a comprehensive audit trail to depict key decisions made during the research process.
Appropriateness to the design was presented drawing on the theoretical and practical benefits and implications on organizational performance relative to various leadership styles for athletic coaches to achieve individual and team peak performance. Research questions lined up for investigation in the study to address the issues associated with establishing preferred leadership characteristics and practices among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches based on the servant leadership model as prescribed in Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment have been taken into consideration in determining the qualitative research approach and methods to be used in data collection.
This chapter has described the justifications for using the selected methods, approaches and procedures to undertake the research. Data analysis will be conducted to analyze and suggest conclusions to support decision-making in identifying the preferred leadership characteristics and practices in line with the servant leadership model, which could then be used by Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches in the Peach Belt Conference to achieve peak performance and other positive outcomes among student-athletes. The validity and reliability of the instruments will be inspected against the qualitative paradigm to ensure findings that will reflect leadership and how to coaching excellence.
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