Nov 2, 2021
6 Tips to Improve Leadership Qualities
Rick Cox, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, Suffolk University

It is often said that all problems inside organizations come down to issues in leadership. For this reason, it should become an area of study for all sports medicine and strength and conditioning professionals. Since leadership is a learned skill, people should go out of their way to make it a priority in their education. If we choose to become better leaders through study and practice, it will only increase our performance in our professional lives. 

Several key facets of leadership should be primary areas of focus when we choose to learn and improve our leadership ability. Below are some of the primary areas of focus to zero in on. 

Personal Accountability – Leaders should never play the blame game. If someone on the staff makes a mistake, then it is incumbent on the leader to ask themselves what they could have said or done that could have better mitigated the risk of the error occurring. Passing blame is not leadership, and it creates mistrust among staff members if the leader of the team is quick to do so. If something goes wrong, ask yourself what YOU could have done better.

leadershipContinuous Self-Reflection – It is important for a leader to always be asking themselves what in their program is going well, what is not going well, and how things can be changed for the better. Organizations and teams do not want to become stagnant or get caught in the “we have always done it this way” mentality. You should have regular check-ins with yourself and your team to see how things are going, and how they can improve.

Let Others Make Decisions – Others on your team should be empowered to make decisions within the organization. People buy into plans and ideas they had a hand in creating. You do not want to be completely hands-off, but you do want to make sure those around you are able and willing to contribute to the vision and mission. This is how trust and cooperation are created and strengthened.

Always Build Relationships – One of the most important skills a leader can have is in relationship building. You need to have great relationships with those above you and below you in the chain of command. If you have a poor relationship with someone else on the team, it should be a priority to improve that relationship. Having a bad relationship with someone else helps no one. If it is someone above you, you will not get the support you need when you need it, and you may even get fired. If it is someone below you, they may begin to spread toxicity to the rest of the team and no one wins. Building and maintaining great relationships is crucial.

Help Others Out – This is a big part of relationship building. Team members need to cover for one another and provide support and assistance when necessary. You should never be above getting into the trenches and helping out others on the team when required. You are not too good to do grunt work occasionally just because you are a leader. Being willing to get your hands dirty with the rest of the team helps build trust and camaraderie.

Help Create Other Leaders – Organizations can often have one person who is THE leader, but they can also have many people who ARE leaders. You want as many of these people as you can have. Good leaders should display all of the characteristics listed above, and who would not want a team full of people like that? Leadership development should be a major part of the programming you create for the rest of the team and the organization. The more leaders you have, the better off your team will be.

So where do we start if we are at the beginning of our leadership journey? One of the most important first steps is to recognize how important leadership is and to begin thinking and talking about it regularly. There are countless resources (often free) when it comes to learning about leadership development. Whether your preferred method of consuming content is books, videos, podcasts, or articles, just start seeking the information out and absorbing it. Find a person you consider to be a good leader, and listen to what they have to say. If they have a book, read it, and read it again. If possible, reach out to that person and start a conversation. Very often, they love talking about it and want to help others grow as leaders.

» ALSO SEE: Implementing a High-Performance Program during a Pandemic

The most important thing is that you start. Becoming a better leader will make you a better communicator, a better professional, and a better person. Take some time to reflect on what leadership means to you, and how you can improve your life by becoming a better, stronger leader.

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