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Will the real leaders please stand up? The emergence of shared leadership in semi-professional soccer teams.

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Objectives.High-quality leadership is often regarded as one of the main sources of competitive advantage. Especially within sport teams, a team’s leadership structure has historically been considered to be stable across the season, with the coach and team captain as the formal, and often sole, leaders. In line with recent organizational research, the present study aims to broaden this perspective by also taking informal leaders into account and exploring how leadership structures among athletes within sport teams evolve over the course of a season.Design.Using social network analysis, we analyzed the leadership structure of 20 semi-professional soccer teams (N = 460 players, Mage = 23.50 years; SD = 4.55) at the start of the season and then again halfway through the season. More specifically, for each team we constructed a leadership network for four leadership roles (task, motivational, social, and external leadership) at these two time points.Results.Findings suggest that leadership structures in sport teams can change considerably over the course of the competitive season, thereby challenging the classic view of stable, vertical leadership structures. The transition to more shared forms of leadership can be attributed to the emergence of informal leaders over time as players engage more strongly in leadership roles. Furthermore, our results suggest that as teams evolve towards shared leadership their functioning and performance benefits from these changes.Conclusions.Based on these findings, we recommend that coaches actively implement a structure of shared leadership and seek to develop the leadership qualities of formal and informal athlete leaders.
Journal: Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport
ISSN: 1440-2440
Issue: 3
Volume: 24
Pages: 281 - 290
Publication year:2021