Advancing leadership in sport: Time to take off the blinkers?

Cruickshank, A., orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8893-2341 and Collins, D. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7601-0454 (2016) Advancing leadership in sport: Time to take off the blinkers? Sports Medicine, 46 (9). pp. 1199-1204. ISSN 0112-1642

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While leadership is one of the most significant factors in sport, most research has focused on who effective leaders are and what they overtly do rather than why and how they lead in a certain way at a certain time. Presumably shaped by social norms, the bulk of this work has also overstated the role of bright (or socially desirable) leadership intentions and behaviours; or at least overlooked how this style fits with the ‘darker’ (or socially undesirable) intentions and behaviours that are prevalent and effective in applied practice. Contextualising this situation against the origins and dominant paradigms of sport-specific study, we therefore highlight the need for greater emphasis on both the cognitive and dark sides of leadership. Regarding the former, we argue that expert leadership requires cognitive excellence given that optimal and consistent impact requires the conscious selection, combination and deployment of leadership behaviours. Regarding the latter, we also argue that bright intentions and behaviours can often only be a part of an effective leadership repertoire and can beneficially operate in tandem with inherently dark alternatives. To advance knowledge and practice, we therefore call for a more pragmatic approach to research that considers both the cognitive mechanisms—namely professional judgement and decision making—and the full spectrum of intentions and behaviours that underpin real world leadership.

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