Why You Need Leadership Skills to Survive the Sports Industry

By Brian Clapp | September 12, 2016
sports leadership
The loudest voice isn't always the true leader of a group
The concept of leadership is one that is greatly misunderstood, oftentimes being confused with the person speaking eloquently or possessing great vocal intensity within a group. It’s logical to notice the most visible and loudest person in the room and bestow upon them the title of leader, but it isn’t always right.

In business, leaders are far more dynamic than the pep-talking rally monkey we so often see in locker rooms across America. In fact, according to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a pretty powerful leader in his day, leadership is often the antithesis of emotion and fervor.

““You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership.”

In sports, we see athletes yelling at teammates and coaches scribbling with intensity, then we hear media members refer to them as ‘great leaders’. We absorb this information and process it into our new reality:

Leaders yell, check.

Leaders are intense, check.

Leaders dominate, check.

Only one problem, this is all misinformation.

“Being a solid leader begins with self-reflection and identifying one’s own strengths and weaknesses,” informs Dr. Robert Prior, teaching professor in the Master’s in Sports Leadership program at Northeastern University. “Proper goal-setting, strategic planning, team building, assessment and empowering others are areas that make leaders.”

sports leadership
It takes more than a T-shirt to be a leader
The good news is, leaders aren’t just born, they can be taught too.

The Master’s in Sports Leadership at Northeastern is geared towards adult learners who want to develop and maximize their leadership capabilities in the sports industry. The program caters to a wide audience ranging from seasoned industry professionals to mid-career change students looking to get their foot in the door for the first time in the sports industry.

“We are confident that our students come away from our program with a better understanding of the dynamics involved in becoming a better leader in whatever their intended career path is,“ says Dr. Prior.

In addition to the team building, group dynamic and strategic planning skills leaders must possess to be effective, they often direct the ethical compass of an organization, whether they realize it or not.

“Effective leaders make decisions based on conviction rather than convenience,” says Dr. Prior. “Making decisions that are based on strong ethical principles is paramount and leaders often have to make unpopular decisions.  If you stand by your core ethical beliefs and values, you will never compromise your integrity.”

As a multi-billion dollar industry, sports are just like any other business, looking to build revenue while minimizing expenses.  At all levels – youth sports, high school, non-profit, college athletics, professional sports teams, leagues and governing bodies – there is a need for leaders.

“Strong leadership is the key for any organization to thrive,” says Dr. Prior, the former Director of Media Relations for the Boston Celtics. “Having personally had a wide range of experiences in marketing and public relations in the professional sports and collegiate sectors, I incorporate many examples of work that I have previously done and tailor assignments to mirror work that would be done by industry practitioners.how to prepare for your sports job search ebook

“We look to incorporate experiential learning experiences into the course work. We also welcome guest speakers to class and take field trips and tours of facilities in the area to enhance the learning experience.”

Developing these skills through the Master of Sports Leadership program can equip graduates with the tools to be a successful leader.

“We focus on applied learning with faculty who are industry practitioners. Students learn what is relevant to the sports industry and how to apply their learning through assignments and projects that reflect the work done in the field.”

The program can be taken 100% online, or from the Northeastern campus in either Boston, Massachusetts or Charlotte, North Carolina. All students will have to fulfill a mandatory 1-week residency either in Boston during July or Charlotte in January, to complete their education.

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