"I feel that a wide group of people do not think of themselves as leaders or as having leadership abilities. As a result, they neither engage in leadership development programs, nor do they apply for positions requiring leadership skills. I think that this is a real shame and that everyone, regardless of their age, culture, or current position has some leadership abilities and can make an impact."
- Jacqueline Mueller, Ph.D., Sport Leadership
Leadership development and the levels at which it is required can often be up for debate based on individual lived experiences or long-standing organizational structures, but when it comes to research on the topic, the answer is conclusive. No matter the age, culture, or defining factor of a group, whether formal like a sporting team or organization, or informal like a family or community group, research shows they all function more effectively when contribution and leadership is incorporated from their entire membership.
But actually having the capability to lead plays a critical role in this effectiveness, so how do we actually develop leadership across diverse populations, ensuring to include those who may be reticent or hesitant to take on a leadership role? Jacqueline Mueller, a leadership expert renowned for bridging the gap between theory and practice acknowledges there’s no effective ‘cookie-cutter’ approach for teaching leadership, but simply put she says, “I try to invite participants to reflect on themselves and to find a way of leading that works for them.”
Jacqueline Mueller, the award-winning Sport Management Lecturer by day, and highly sought-after leadership consultant by night, earned her Ph.D. from Loughborough University London, one of the most renowned universities for sport management in the world. She now leads the module for Leadership, Diversity, and Change within the university’s Institute for Sport Business, and is also a visiting Lecturer at the German Sport University Cologne. In industry, Jacky works closely with teams and individual professionals to deliver executive leadership workshops for a wide variety of organizations including the German Football Association (DFB) and the European Handball Manager (EHF).
Recently Jacky designed and delivered the ‘Future Leaders in Football Program’ in cooperation with the German Football Association, UEFA, GIZ, SCORD, and the Street Football Foundation. The five-day digital intensive program included future leaders from 15 countries, providing an invaluable network and opportunity for them to exchange ideas and find global commonalities in managing the issues they all face including cultural diversity, gender issues, ensuring the sustainability of events and programmes, and facilitating effective communication between ‘young and old’.
Jacky shared how inspiring it was to learn about the unique challenges that the representatives from each country face, saying,
“With growing social challenges around the globe, emphasis is put on young people to proactively lead the way towards sustainable and positive social change, on and off the field. As a universal language and a passion shared all over the world, football can play a part in developing the skills and competences to become socially responsible leaders, to build bridges and to connect people and cultures.”
She continues, “I think the most important thing for me has been to find something that I am passionate about (turning others into the best leader they can be). Doing a Ph.D. requires a lot of effort and does not get done overnight. An ability to stick with it and to see the end of the tunnel has really helped me to push through tough times in and outside of academia.”
A key take home across all of Jacky’s life-changing leadership programs is the development of a personal way of leading. Whether she is working in an academic or industry environment and regardless of whether her students or clients understand leadership in the context of self-leadership or leading teams, Jacky begins the process of developing leadership capability with an understanding of the self or self-awareness. Even though clients and students bring different backgrounds, lived experiences, and aspirations to her programs, they all benefit equally from knowing the way they naturally prefer to do things (it seems so obvious when it’s all in front of you!).
To build their self-awareness, Jacky’s students and clients use Athlete Assessments’ Sports ManagerDISC Profiles and receive a detailed debrief on how to apply the unique and individualized report it generates. There is no good or bad, right or wrong DISC Profile, the Sports MangerDISC simply provides the fundamental awareness of each individual’s own preferred behavioral style, knowledge of their strengths and limitations, plus an insight into their potential areas for improvement. Each person’s profile also details the pace they prefer to tackle tasks, the way they build relationships, communicate, deal with challenges, and information about environments they naturally thrive in. Importantly, it also delivers an insight into what the individual is likely to do under stress, giving them time to develop strategies to counter these tendencies when necessary. Learn more about Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profiles here.
Speaking to the use of the Sports ManagerDISC, Jacky says,
“Whenever I am invited to deliver a leadership class, I recommend integrating Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profiles into the course as I truly believe they offer very valuable insights for participants. Working with Athlete Assessments has been absolutely great and the team does everything to make the integration of the DISC as easy as possible.”
As a part of the Future Leaders in Football Program, Bo Hanson, Founder and Senior Coaching Consultant for Athlete Assessments, 4x Olympian and 3x Olympic medalist worked with the group, debriefing their profiles, building on their knowledge, and delivering strategies to apply what they had learned about themselves. Bo also shared his experience of using DISC as an athlete and how an awareness and understanding of his own behavioral tendencies drastically improved his sporting performance. The group also had an opportunity to invite their peers to contribute to the process of increasing their self-awareness through Athlete Assessments’ Sport MangerDISC Profile’s 360 Observer capability.
Providing some further insight into the benefits of developing self-awareness and the fascinating part it plays in her work, Jacky says,
“Both students and clients really value learning more about themselves and their behavioral tendencies. It is interesting to see that many of them feel like their Athlete Assessments DISC Profile is a very accurate reflection of their natural tendencies. People I work with, are especially fascinated when they discover the link between different self-awareness tools such as their own (national) cultural identity profile (Hofstede), their DISC, their leadership preferences, and their preferred organizational culture (OCAI).”
Jacky explains that as her students and clients come to an understanding of the underpinnings of leadership and the challenges leaders face globally, she also unravels our inbuilt or learned biases, “Especially in sports we are historically drawn to a leader-centric approach to leadership. What I mean by that is, for decades we have (wrongly) assumed that leadership is something that solely resides within one (male) person in charge and that neither the context nor the followers have a significant impact. I love to challenge this taken for granted assumption and advocate for a new way of looking at leadership as something that is co-constructed by the leader(s), the followers, and the context. If we allow this new understanding of leadership to emerge, we will be able to have a more holistic and contemporary understanding of leadership as something that can be shared across multiple individuals within any team.”
Academically, Jacky delivers a foundational element of a program that attracts some of the top students in the world, Loughborough University has been ranked #1 for sport related subjects by the QS World Rankings, five years in a row. It’s Institute for Sport Business offers four distinctive Sport Management Programmes including Sport Analytics and Technologies, Sport Marketing, Sport Business, and Leadership. Students in the MSc Sport Business and Leadership Programme are introduced to recent developments in leadership research and learn about leading and managing individuals, teams, and organizations in the sport business industry. Jacky previously graduated from the MSc. Sport Business and Innovation Programme at Loughborough University with distinction in 2016 adding to her BSc which she received from the University of Applied Science Europe, in Iserlohn. The calibre of the Loughborough degree can be seen through the alumni some of whom have gone on to work for Chelsea Football Club, the International Olympic Committee, Octagon, and BTSport, just to name a few.
Developing leaders in an academic setting and concurrently working with experts from industry means that Jacky needs to be versatile in her delivery of leadership concepts, but it also means she has the unique position of informing the next generation of graduates with real-life experiences, and bringing current academia straight to industry. She explained that both groups are very eager to learn about themselves and the leadership implications of their preferred behavioral style. She emphasizes that for industry practitioners the new information can help them be a better version of themselves both on and off the field, increasing the overall performance of their teams. While when engaging with her students, she is mindful that they may not always have a depth of experience to draw on, and so she provides lots of examples allowing both groups to bring the theory to life and see how the new information can impact them and their future careers.
Knowing the unfolding future is looking bright for Jacky, we ask her to share what’s on the horizon, she says
“Now, I am excited for the second round of the Future Leaders in Football Camps which will be a ‘Female Edition’ especially targeting women and girls in the Middle East. With the World Cup 2022 taking place in the Middle East, the decision was made to put an emphasis on the support and growth of female leaders within the football industry. This new camp will take place in March in Amman, Jordan, and I am very excited to be part of it again.”
During our interview Jacky gave so many valuable insights into leadership that we’ve included an extended Q&A.
Where to from here?
Whether you are a coach, sport psychologist, academic, or consultant your people rely on you to bring them the latest industry information, tools, and techniques. Jacky Mueller includes Athlete Assessments’ Sports ManagerDISC as part of her programs, utilizing the full potential of our Academic Program which also includes a guest lecture, video series, and additional educational materials.
We recently interviewed Jacqueline Mueller, Ph.D. in Sport Leadership, Lecturer at Loughborough University, London for our article Leadership Learnings from an Award-Winning Lecturer and International Leadership Consultant. We couldn’t fit all the valuable insights and learnings she shared, so we’ve placed them here in an extended Q&A.
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