Leadership is the ability to lead, guide, or motivate a group to reach a shared goal. Urban Meyer defines leadership as setting high standards for people, and giving them the tools to reach them. There are many leadership styles. None is perfect for every situation, leader, or follower. Leadership largely consists of two types of behavior: relationship oriented, or task oriented behavior. Leaders are either attempting to make their followers satisfied and empowering them to perform better (relationship oriented behavior) or they are organizing, directing, and demanding tasks to be performed (task oriented behavior). Relationship oriented leaders are often described as “players coaches” while task-oriented leaders are more similar to a military drill sergeant. Both types of leaders can be effective in different situations, but for like most things, balancing both orientations is most effective.

Arguably, at it’s best, leadership is selfless. The best leaders sacrifice their selfish desires for the desires of the team. If all the energy and work is channelled toward team goals, the team’s success is maximized. This does not happen when corrupt leaders act selfishly.

Transformational leadership is currently one of the most popular theories in leadership. Transformational leaders share 4 characteristics.
  1. Inspirational motivation: they share their vision with their followers and are able to motivate their followers to desire the vision just as much as they do.
  2. Individualized consideration: they satisfy the individual needs of each of their followers. They are good at relationship-oriented behavior.
  3. Intellectual stimulation: they challenge their followers to be more creative and think independently.
  4. Idealized influence: they lead by example. They are a good role models and don’t ask their followers to do anything that they wouldn’t do.

Effective leadership creates a “team culture.” A team culture is a set of beliefs, philosophies, rituals, norms, and expectations shared by a team. With a team culture, the culture itself reinforces good behavior, because the followers already know what is expected from them without needing direct guidance from the leader. Having a good team culture makes it easier for the leaders and helps create lasting team success, because even when individual players leave or graduate, the culture, or expectations never change.

Why should players care about leadership? Isn’t this the coach’s job? Players should care because they should value team goals over personal goals. Success and happiness, when shared with teammates can be more rewarding than individual success. Watch any team celebration after winning a championship. Most champions wouldn’t trade their team title for a MVP accolade. So instead of selfishly only looking out for yourself, you should “get over yourself,” as Gregg Popovich says, and decide to put the team first. In order to reach team goals, there needs to be leadership from the coaches and the players. Championship teams are usually full of unselfish players who are good leaders. As a player, you can be a good leader vocally or by example. The same characteristics of leadership stated above can be applied to players to help them be better leaders.