Leadership Development in Football Management

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Leaders form a central part of organisational achievement, and their effectiveness is inevitable to ensure success toward the set goals and objectives. However, there is no rule to ascertain what is required for one leader to be more effective than another. The implication is that there is no universal approach of leadership effectiveness which is accepted to improve a particular situation (Clark and Harrison, 2018). Leadership effectiveness is mostly displayed as a relative judgement based on the evaluated characteristics. Such effectiveness can be appraised either by organisational measures or subordinate perceptions. However, several authors argue that some of the best means through which a leader is assessed relate to employee assessments (Solomon and Steyn, 2017). The main responsibility of every leader should be to motivate the people they lead to achieve an objective by guiding the followers in becoming better performers.

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In the realm of sports, specifically football, coaches and captains greatly impact those around them. All the other players contact them for instructions and guidance whenever they need any kind of assistance. Leaders, whether they coach or play with their team, do have a bearing on the outcome of the squad in almost every season. For leaders to effectively and constructively influence the performance of their football clubs, they should have an absolute impact on each individual’s competitiveness (Yadav and Lata, 2019). The ability of a leader to positively influence football players and mobilise them is what constitutes coaching effectiveness. Leadership has a fundamental part in affecting the degree of performance of a football team relative to the available rivals. Therefore, the research paper aims to underline the concept of leadership in sports (football) management.

Overview of Sports

Sports is an activity which promotes development and growth of healthy habits, leisure and entertainment. It reflects an educational and socio-cultural phenomenon and forms an important part of human history. Competition is a term which emerged following the habits of villages, the evolution of society, and the development of various cultures (Bridgewater, 2016). Sports are intrinsic to the nature of human beings, and they have managed to manifest from the very beginning of a man’s existence. Essentially, sports are considered to be a key source of physical, social and mental health. Whenever a club fails or performs below expectations, a frequent measure employed by the team is changing the leader. The fate of the coach, in this case, becomes an agenda either by fans, media or the board of directors. The main aim of any sport competition is winning, so any other outcome puts the capacity of the team managers in question.

Differences Between Management and Leadership

Both management and leadership are significant factors for smooth delivery of good coaching services. Though the two show similarities in certain aspects, they include different types of skills, behaviour, and outlook. For instance, good managers must try to excel as exceptional leaders; on the other hand, good leaders require management skills to excel as effective heads. They communicate the organisational vision to others and develop various strategies which are to be used in the achievement of the vision (Vasilescu, 2018). They also offer motivation and negotiate for support, which all aid in realising an organisation’s vision.

Managers, on the other hand, ensure that the available resources are utilised, organised, and used well to produce the desired results. It can be argued that all managers are not leaders because not all of them exercise leadership, and some leaders run their affairs without a corresponding management position (Vasilescu, 2018). Though management and leadership may overlap, their activities are not synonymous. While leaders encourage new functions by testing the current positions and seeking long term goals, managers are entitled to maintain a thriving workplace with a positive work culture. In addition, managers’ main focus is the formal controlling and directing of their assistants, systems, and resources. They aim at achieving short term goals, avoiding risks, and establishing standardisation with a goal of improving efficiency. The employees are entitled to follow the manager’s direction to earn a salary, a leadership style referred to as transactional (Clark and Harrison, 2018). Indeed, the effectiveness of a manager is dependent on conceptual, technical, and human skills.

Overview of Leadership in Football

Leadership has an important part in affecting the degree of performance of a football team relative to the available rivals. In football, it represents a moral relationship which is complex and based on trust, commitment, obligation, and a shared vision of a common good. It is a process which involves one person (the leader), setting direction for others (players and fans) and getting them to move together with full commitment (Yadav and Lata, 2019). A set goal is accomplished under the guidance of a leader with a desire and commitment to succeed.

In football sports management, generic leadership is conventionally approached and regarded as a phenomenon which is leader-centric. The latest progressions in the literature of generic leadership have underscored various ways in which different people have constructed their personal understanding of the subject, and this has influenced their assessment in regard to leaders. This perspective (observer-centric) is what is referred to as the social construction of leadership (Billsberry et al., 2018). Just like any other organisation, effective leadership is required in football to warrant the success of a club.

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Thought leadership in football management is relevant across several contexts, it is highly applicable among the role-assigned heads, including sports presidents, team captains, CEOs, team managers and chairpersons. The aforementioned groups of individuals attract more attention and their effectiveness is seen as the main root of either success or failure (Burnes et al., 2018). However, some insights in the literature of generic leadership pose a challenge that success or failure is not mainly about the performance of leaders but rather, it is highly reliant on the views of the society and other people.

Leadership in football should adequately respond to the new and emerging needs of the club such as innovation, communication, cultural diversity, work groups, and work-based knowledge. Today’s football clubs have diversified due to globalisation, social and economic trends, and new technologies (Billsberry et al., 2018). These trends pose considerable challenges to leadership functions and roles in sports management. It has, therefore, become a complex field which should combine unremitting innovation, incorporation of social values, integration of groups of professionals, and the incorporation of ethical principles of health.

Ineffective Versus Effective Leadership in Football Management

Ineffective management is in most cases regarded as laissez-faire leadership (passive). In this case, the passive approach is used by the football leader in the management of teams, with such coaches completely showing no interest in excelling in their roles (Molan et al., 2016). This leadership violates football clubs’ interests; apart from being inefficient, it undermines the well-being, motivation, and satisfaction of players and fans. The leaders, to some extent, become obsessed with personal authority and power, thereby resulting in self-serving and narcissism (Burns, 2017). Misuse of power, intimidation, self-centred behaviours, coercion, and manipulation all lead to ineffective or derailed leadership, which is basically an absence of positive traits and culture to win football matches.

Likewise, ineffective leadership can also result from negative personal traits of the coach. These are commonly referred to as impediments to efficient leadership, and they often result in toxic, abusive, or destructive management in football. The consequences of such leadership greatly affect the players, fans, external stakeholders, work groups and the heads themselves (Molan et al., 2016). Followers endure low performance, poor psychological health, and lack of interest or self-confidence. On the other hand, football clubs suffer from underachievement and high turnover rates; leaders may experience a lack of personal influence, suffer from derailment, psychological problems and demotion.

Damaging charisma, negative life issues, and ideologies of hate are some of the notable characteristics of abusive leadership. According to Itri and Lawson (2016), followers may be conformers, passively permitting destructive football leaders to assume power due to their immaturity or unmet needs which may make them very vulnerable. Alternatively, persons under such coaches may be colluders, only supporting football leaders because they desire to promote themselves.

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Some environmental factors which may favourably underpin abusive leadership in football include perceived threats, instability, cultural values, and lack of checks and institutionalisation. The interaction of the characteristics of leaders and the situation may sometimes promote discretionary actions, thus harming the well-being and performance of players in the long-run (Clark and Harrison, 2018). Other negative personal attributes which could lead to ineffective leadership in football include the inability to build a consistent team, under and over-managing, overambitious, having unsupportive and demanding members, insensitivity of leaders, and overriding personal defects (Molan et al., 2016). An ineffective leader burdens the team members and may cause a great failure to the entire team, and finally subject the coach to a significant degree of harm. The overall price of failure resulting from ineffective leadership is eventually paid by everyone, including fans and the football club itself.

Effective leadership at any level of management helps most football clubs to be in a better place of grabbing opportunities (e.g. buying new players) while also facing challenges posed by globalisation. For leaders to effectively and constructively influence the performance of their football clubs, they should individually motivate each player into giving their best in terms of game output (Clark and Harrison, 2018). Therefore, the competitiveness of a work-group is increased by practising effective strategic leadership. This improves performance, satisfaction and productivity which, in turn, guarantees the success of the sports club in question.

The ability of a leader to positively influence football players and mobilise them is what constitutes leadership effectiveness. It is crucial as it drives the inclination of the work-group towards the achievement of the set goal. As such, effective leaders are said to be adept at positively utilising and recognising limitations of their followers, as well as their competencies (Solomon and Steyn, 2017). They have a constructive impact on the entire football club’s team spirit, and are always keen to build squad’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

Behaviours that are related to effective leadership in football include task-oriented behaviour, external leadership, change-oriented behaviour, and relations-oriented behaviour.

The task-oriented class entails actions which directly relate to the leader’s ability to make use of the available resources and people efficiently. Such behaviours include clarifying responsibilities, planning, performing objectives, problem solving and operation monitoring (Burnes et al., 2018). A combination of the aforementioned deeds is positively correlated with managerial effectiveness.

The relations-oriented cluster involves behaviours which encourage committing to the organisation’s mission, and the ability to nurture a trustful and cooperative working environment. Specific relations-oriented comprises conducts such as being supportive, recognising, developing, and empowering others. Change-oriented consists of leadership attributes which encourage members to adapt to change and embrace innovation (Ruiz et al., 2017). They include advocating for change, encouraging innovation, and collective learning and envisioning change. External leadership orientation facilitates access to information even from the outside sources; networking, representing and external monitoring are some behaviours included in this category (Yadav and Lata, 2019). Good leadership styles have a very important function in motivating, impacting the performance of individuals, and raising the morale of team members.

An effective football leader is said to have an idealised influence, which is the attribute to inspire players in viewing the head as a role model. Charisma can be used in place of idealised influence, and it creates values with the ability to establish sense, inspire, and engender sense amongst individuals. It is a trait which builds attitude on what is more significant in life. Charismatic leaders encourage self-reliance and frequently express trust in the members who are willing to sacrifice or undertake exceptional goals (Ruiz et al., 2017). Such leaders usually secure great accomplishments because they have confidence in their respective teams.

Leadership Styles in Football Management

In contemporary literature, there exist several leadership styles which explain the different ways employed by various football coaches in their roles. For instance, transactional leadership style is characterised by a contingent reward, which is active, and management by exception, which is passive. The leader heads his team by following the scheme of rewards and appreciating good performance. Transactional leaders have a strong belief that principal motivators in any work group are contractual agreements (Afsar and Umrani, 2019). Conversely, transformational leadership style links an individual’s positive outcomes with different organisational levels. Leaders who use this style embolden their teams to achieve the highest needs like self-esteem and self-actualisation. Such leaders are very influential in urging players to mainly aim at sacrificing to accomplish the football club’s goal, rather than pursuing personal interests (Afsar and Umrani, 2019). Transformational leaders have a very good relationship with their teams and often prioritise and demonstrate individualised consideration as a way of empowerment, self-efficacy, and accomplishment.

Empowering and directive leadership styles represent dissimilar and distinct control behaviours in football sports management. These two styles base their effectiveness on the extent to which teams and or players can exert influence. Empowering leadership encourages inspiration and support of all players, thereby promoting self-confidence, opportunity thinking, and participative goal setting. It is characterised by the perception that the action of leaders facilitates the involvement of every other person in decision-making (Molan et al., 2016). This is better achieved by providing opportunities for innovative thinking, thus taking measured risks. Accordingly, this style encourages assuming responsibility rather than issuing instructions, eliminating the feeling of powerlessness. It has so far been linked with both team and individual outcomes; the latter include satisfaction, employee attitudes, creativity and engagement.

Directive leadership style involves providing football team members with precise and brief guidance on what should be achieved, how to attain it and the required level of quality. It is a style which is common among those who take management responsibility in the low level cadres. They mainly observe performance and evaluate later on, and they are known to make chastisement if the set goal is not met. Directive leadership style becomes optimal whenever a given head exercises appropriate power and organises the work of his members in a logical and organised manner (Solomon and Steytn, 2017). Although the approach has been associated with poor decision making, and is less attractive than other styles, there are some associated advantages. It enhances the existing relationship between organisational commitment and transformational leadership. Initial team performance is delivered faster in this style than in the others.

The leader of a sports team should know the best way to make use of the available resources; he or she not only controls and administers but also innovates and develops. When an economic crisis occurs, many sports institutions permit the application of different managerial styles exhibited in the sector as a way of adaptive change management. The quality achieved by a sports institution is mainly a product of the role of the leader, marketing strategies, and the cooperation of the followers (Bridgewater, 2016). A leader who listens to the team members makes decisions accordingly, and is bound to incorporate change and boost the confidence of his players. Therefore, leadership effectiveness is entirely linked with a leader’s intelligence, and it has a close association with the leader’s self-awareness. The perception of leadership effectiveness also correlates with specific styles including transactional, transformational, empowering and directive.


In summary, just like any other organisation, effective leadership is required in football to warrant success of a club. Thought leadership in football management is relevant across several contexts, it is highly applicable among most role-assigned leaders including team captains, CEOs, sports presidents, team managers and chairpersons. Regardless of the style used, football leaders who practice transformational and relational styles stand at a better place of delivering effective services in sports management than those that practice autocracy. In addition to interpersonal skills and teamwork, other factors transpire whenever results are examined based on benevolent, virtuous and authoritarian leadership qualities.

Overall, leadership in football should effectively respond to the new and emerging needs of the club such as innovation, communication, cultural diversity, work groups and work-based knowledge. An effective football leader is said to have an idealised influence, which is the attribute to inspire players in viewing the leader as a role model. Essentially, there is a need to understand the connection which exists between leadership styles in football and the cohesiveness of work-groups. Ideally, the overall performance of the players and clubs is the overarching theme that should prove consistency. As noted above, for leaders to effectively and positively influence the performance of their football clubs, they must endeavour to impact the club’s competitiveness in a constructive manner. In conclusion, therefore, good leadership styles have a very important function in motivating, impacting the performance of individuals, and raising the morale of team members to give their best to their respective football clubs.

References List

Afsar, B. and Umrani, W.A. (2019) ‘Transformational leadership and innovative work behaviour: the role of motivation to learn, task complexity and innovation climate’, European Journal of Innovation Management, 23(3), pp. 402–428.

Billsberry, J. et al. (2018) ‘Reimagining leadership in sport management: lessons from the social construction of leadership’, Journal of Sport Management, 32(2), pp. 170–182. Web.

Bridgewater, S. (2016) Football management. New York: Springer.

Burnes, B., Hughes, M. and By, R.T. (2018) ‘Reimagining organisational change leadership’, Leadership, 14(2), pp. 141–158. Web.

Burns, W.A., Jr. (2017) ‘A descriptive literature review of harmful leadership styles: definitions, commonalities, measurements, negative impacts, and ways to improve these harmful leadership styles’, Creighton Journal of Interdisciplinary Leadership, 3(1), pp. 33–52.

Clark, C. M. and Harrison, C. (2018) ‘Leadership: the complexities and state of the field’, European Business Review, 30(5), pp. 514–528.

Itri, J.N. and Lawson, L.M. (2016) ‘Ineffective leadership’, Journal of the American College of Radiology, 13(7), pp. 849–855. Web.

Molan, C., Matthews, J. and Arnold, R. (2016) ‘Leadership off the pitch: the role of the manager in semi-professional football’, European Sport Management Quarterly, 16(3), pp. 274–291.

Ruiz, C.E., Hamlin, R.G. and Gresch, E.B. (2017) ‘Contemporary perceptions of effective and ineffective managerial behaviour: a 21st century case from the USA’, Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 18(1), pp. 59–77.

Solomon, A. and Steyn, R. (2017) ‘Leadership styles: the role of cultural intelligence’, SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 43(1), pp. 1–12.

Vasilescu, M. (2018) ‘Management versus leadership: a key theoretical distinction’, Annals-Economy Series, 6, pp. 170–175.

Yadav, R. and Lata, P. (2019) ‘Role of emotional intelligence in effective leadership’, International Journal on Leadership, 7(2), p. 27–32.

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