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The Leadership Challenge in Sport: 5 Minutes with Bo Hanson

Bo Hanson
Director and Lead Consultant

In addressing the leadership challenge, the fundamental question was what type of inclusions do you put in a quality leadership development program?

Vince Lombardi was once quoted as saying: “Only by knowing yourself, can you be an effective leader.” It really does come down to leadership programs being founded in what we’d call self-awareness. That is, the level of knowledge an athlete has about their strengths, their limitations, their motivations, the type of environment that they respond well to and the type of coaching that they respond well too.

The really critical element, from a leadership perspective, that self-awareness gives us is that self-awareness helps us to understand others. It gives us a framework for understanding how other people communicate, build relationships, how other people respond to the type of motivations we can potentially provide. Leadership is really about, adapting out leadership style to suit the needs of our followers. I believe if you look at what leadership is in its’ simplest form, leadership is about attracting followers. What’s going to make someone want to follow you? These are all of the elements, ultimately, that need to be included in a quality leadership program.

Let’s face it. In elite sport, every team has quality equipment and facilities, a scientific training program, and strong game or race strategies. The only competitive edge to be gained is through investing in your people and the most valuable people skill is leadership. Today, the challenges in sport are different.

This generation of student-athletes has grown up in an era unlike any other. They don’t arrive at university with strong leadership and interpersonal skills.

The structured environment they have come from hasn’t demanded these skills or provided an opportunity to develop them. A significant leadership gap exists that needs to be addressed. The good news is, it is something we can be proactive about. Leadership is no longer seen as something you are born with but rather a skill that can be developed and grown. But Athletic Departments’resources are being stretched and developing a quality leadership program is no easy task. It takes:

  • years of experience,
  • solid research,
  • a robust leadership model,
  • strong understanding of learning styles,
  • hours of development and testing, and
  • a sense of fun to make it engaging for your student athletes

Most of all, when you tackle an area such as leadership, professional and personal credibility is a must-have. Our program uses the DISC Model, of which we have the only sporting version available in the world. Universities all around the US use DISC to help coaches better understand their athletes and to have the athletes develop that self-awareness and now we are leveraging it to a whole new level where we can help athletes to better understand their own leadership styles and how they can have the greatest possible impact on their teams’ success.


At Athlete Assessments, we have developed Leading the Leaders, a Student Athlete Leadership Program designed to teach your athletes how to become great leaders. Find out more here.

Looking to catch up?
You can watch all videos in the 5 Minutes with Bo Hanson series.

You can watch all videos in the
5 Minutes with Bo Hanson series.

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