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date: 22 October 2017

Leadership Skills in Sport

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.

The academic study of leadership has a long history, beginning with the Great Man Theory, the Trait Theory, the Behavioral Theories, the Contingency Theories, the Transactional Leadership Theories, and ending with the Transformational Leadership Theories. Even as new theories are advanced, the fascination with the old theories continues. Despite these great efforts, there is no sign of the emergence of a general all-encompassing theory of leadership. This is understandable, since leadership is exercised in different groups pursuing different goals, and the processes of achieving those goals are considerably varied. It appears, then, that different models of leadership would be relevant to different situational contingencies defined, for example, by goals of the group, processes of achieving those goals, member characteristics, cultural differences, etc. The search goes on for identifying the fit between situational contingencies and leadership models. The notion that different groups pursue different goals, and that the processes of achieving those goals are vastly different, is best illustrated by sports. People may participate in a sport for (a) the mere kinesthetic pleasure of playing it, (b) to pursue excellence in that activity, and/or (c) to witness excellence in a competition between elite athletes/teams. Given these differing purposes and processes within sport, we may expect that the leadership appropriate to each purpose of participation and the processes thereof would also be different. As is the case with leadership in other contexts, the search goes on for the identification of the leadership model most appropriate to each purpose of participation in sport.