The different leadership roles

Good leadership encompasses different qualities, ranging from strategical decision-making, over motivational talents and emphatic competencies, to strong communicative skills. 

Within our earlier sport research, we developed a leadership categorisation, existing of 4 different leadership roles. The roles of the task and motivational leader are mainly situated on the field, whereas the social and the external leader take the lead off the field.

Previous research revealed that each of these roles are essential for a good functioning of a sport team. Like Sandra Kay Yow, the head coach who led the American woman basketball team to Olympic gold, indicated:

"The quality of your team leaders can make or break your season."

The scientific studies of our research group that you find below, indicated that the quality of the leaders on these 4 leadership roles was indeed associated with the team confidence of the players, their identification with their team, and their commitment to obtain the team goals. Furthermore, teams with high-quality leadership on these 4 roles also demonstrated a stronger team cohesion, were characterised by a task climate (in which cooperation in favour of the team is central) and ended higher on the team ranking.

Also within organisations a first study revealed that the quality of the leaders within the team on each of these roles was significantly associated with the extent to which the employees identified with their team (i.e., experienced a shared sense of 'we' and 'us'), which in turn was linked to improved team effectiveness, enhanced work satisfaction among the colleagues, and reduced feelings of burnout. At the moment, this study is still in the scientific review process. As soon as it is published, we will add it to our website.

Further building on this preliminary evidence that emphasises the importance of these 4 roles within organisations, we are in the process of conducting a large-scale study that aims to identify the essential leadership roles within organisations, both within profit and non-profit organisations, and on each of the different hierarchical levels, ranging from toilers to the management team. We will keep you updated about the results.

Read more about our research on this topic:

Standing out from the crowd: Identifying the traits and behaviors that characterize high-quality athlete leaders on and off the field

Fransen, K., Haslam, S. A., Steffens, N. K., & Boen, F. (2020). Standing out from the crowd: Identifying the traits and behaviors that characterize high-quality athlete leaders on and off the field. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 30, 766– 786. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13620

Leading from the centre: A comprehensive examination of the relationship between central playing positions and leadership in sport.

Fransen, K., Haslam, S. A., Mallett, C. J., Steffens, N. K., Peters, K., & Boen, F. (2016). Leading from the centre: A comprehensive examination of the relationship between central playing positions and leadership in sport. PLoS ONE, 11(12), e0168150. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0168150

Who takes the lead? Social network analysis as pioneering tool to investigate shared leadership within sports teams.

Fransen, K., Van Puyenbroeck, S., Loughead, T. M., Vanbeselaere, N., De Cuyper, B., Vande Broek, G., & Boen, F. (2015). Who takes the lead? Social network analysis as pioneering tool to investigate shared leadership within sports teams. Social Networks, 43, 28-38. doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2015.04.003

The myth of the team captain as principal leader: Extending the athlete leadership classification within sport teams.

Fransen, K., Vanbeselaere, N., De Cuyper, B., Vande Broek, G., & Boen, F. (2014). The myth of the team captain as principal leader: Extending the athlete leadership classification within sport teams. Journal of Sports Sciences, 32(14), 1389-1397. doi:10.1080/02640414.2014.891291