Let's Talk About Leadership in the Workplace - Work in Sports Podcast

Most people who think they are leaders in the workplace are doing it all wrong. In today's podcast, we're going to break down four important traits of real leaders! (Psst, anyone can be a leader, not just senior executives)

Hey, it’s Brian before we get into today’s QA session on leadership - a topic I am very excited about, we want to welcome NYU to the Work in Sports family!

The NYU School of Professional Studies Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport announces the NEW MS in Global Sport, a 36-credit, 16-month master’s degree.

The increase in global events and sports development in countries like China, Brazil, and India, the growth of soccer and rugby in the US,  the expansion of US sports globally like basketball and baseball -- these are the events changing the landscape of sports. The sports industry is more global than ever, and NYU recognizes that fact with their new Masters in Global Sport.

I’ll be honest - looking back I really wish I had done some international study - I’m fascinated by different approaches and techniques in accomplishing goals, and this program will introduce you to so much of that.

Designed for busy professionals from around the world, the program is predominantly online and includes four one-week residencies—two in New York City and one each in Tokyo and Madrid.

Ooh, Madrid is on my short list of places I really want to go -  wonder if they are hiring any adjunct professors. I should probably wonder that in my head rather than on the ad.

Gain a comprehensive knowledge of sports business on a global scale.

Learn more and Apply TODAY at S-P-S dot N-Y-U dot E-D-U slash Global Sport 1

Thanks, NYU -- Now, let’s start the countdown

Hi, everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, Director of Content for WorkinSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

I spent the last few days in New Orleans, Louisiana at the NASSM conference - that’s the North American Society for Sports Management conference, lots of sports management professors from around the globe sharing their research and having little breakout sessions to discuss their findings and open themselves up to questions from their peers.

Some really cool stuff - and it was great meeting Kevin Cattani from the University of Dubuque, Karen Boleska from Husson, Sam Todd from the University of South Carolina, who we partnered with on some research into sports job seeker mentality,  and a bunch of other professors I had the pleasure of meeting.

I was there in part to pitch our new online course focusing on the strategies and tactics of getting hired in the sports industry. And I have to say I’m pretty proud, all of the professors pretty much said ‘this is exactly what we need’

You see professors and deans recognize that they are experts in their specific section of the sports industry -- maybe it’s finance, HR, public relations, event management - but they don’t really spend enough time talking about how to get a job once you graduate, and the strategies you need to employ to get hired.

That’s what our course teaches.

In fact, many colleges are going to start using our course as part of their curriculum moving forward - because we focus on actionable advice in the four pillars of getting hired:

  • Gaining the right experience
  • Building and maintaining your network
  • Mastering your resume cover letter and personal brand
  • And Interviewing for jobs and internships

This is the stuff no one teaches you-- but is so important!

Now, if your school is going to use our course - awesome you are in luck! If not, you individual person dedicated to your craft of working in the sports industry - can buy it direct on our site starting soon.

Or -- tell your professors to contact me bclapp@workinsports.com - and I can do a demo with them. If the school signs up you get a highly discounted group rate!

If you have questions -- ask, I love talking about what we have created and I’m very excited about it.

Ok, let’s get into today’s question on leadership from Alisha in North Carolina:

“Hi Brian, love the podcast, your recent interview with Vincent Pierson Director of Diversity and Inclusion from Minor League baseball was so inspiring to me. [Still one of my favorites too Alisha - you have good taste]

I may only be a senior in college, but I recognize the importance of leadership. I’ve had internship roles where there was a great leader at the helm and the environment felt different and better. I’ve had others that seemed different with a poor leader.

I want to start thinking and discovering how to be a good leader now, so that I can start to practice, develop and exemplify leadership traits throughout my career - do you have any pointers?”


Alisha - this is such a wonderful perspective. I love how observant you are and how you have picked up on the impact of strong leadership. I too have seen this in action, and the difference in a culture and work environment leadership creates.

I’ll tell you I’ve had bosses that were very prescriptive and micromanaging - meaning they told you exactly what they wanted you to do and then watched you as you did it. They thought this was leading by clarity of expectations -- it is not, it is stifling.

I’ve had bosses who were absent most of the time, and they swooped in to act as a savior - this is not leadership either.

I also had one boss who gave me space, guidance, support and listened and you know what. He was a leader. He wasn’t perfect by any means, and we have a bit of an estranged relationship now for other reasons, but I respect so much of the way he acted in a leadership role.

So, let’s try and break down and explain some of these qualities I’ve discovered in great leaders. AND highlight something that are awful traits of people who think they are leaders.

Let’s start with a few things that are not part of being a leader:

1: Leaders do not have to be the person with all the answers. You do not have to be an expert in everything, and you don’t need to solve every problem. Get that out of your head. Leadership is not equivalent to a subject expert.

2: you do not have to be the loudest voice. This is not Braveheart, you don’t have to rally troops or scream or talk over other people. That is not leadership, that’s just hurting people’s ears. Some people act like they are always on stage, performing for the masses. That doesn’t work. Authenticity works.  

3: An expansive vocabulary is not as impressive as the vocal leaders who read a word a day calendar thinks it is. It’s like meme’s - they are always much funnier and more clever to the person that posts them than they are to the audience.

If you refer to an employee or co-worker as indefatigable - you’re being ridiculous. Just say they are tireless and their work ethic is impressive. I once had a boss call me indefatigable in an email he sent the staff and it was more embarrassing than inflating. Don’t be that person, that sends mass emails to congratulate someone or tell them they did wonderful work - make it personal and authentic. Face to face matters.

Ok so now let’s branch into what you should do.

1: Listen.

Give someone the space to talk without judgment, and without trying to solve everything.

This is why women are often better leaders than men - they listen, and they don’t try to go into solution mode right away. The people you are surrounded by don’t always need rescuing, they just may need to say something out loud to help them come to a conclusion.

Have you ever had that happen -- you are stuck - but when you talk it through with someone else the answer comes to you.

Leaders allow this to happen by listening, really listening, and not trying to monopolize the answer.

I’ve always thought this was a self-confidence thing.  Some people want to solve every problem, and that’s the way they prove their value.

When I was news Director of Fox Sports Northwest, the first few weeks on the job I was inundated with questions -- how should we do this? How do you like that? Should we try that?

And I started to realize if I answered the questions, I was going to be here all the time because none of them would be trained to think for themselves...and I need them to think for themselves.

So I started this new policy -- when you have a problem that you want to come to me with, have two possible solutions. So if they’d have a question -- I’d throw it back to them and say, ok, what do you think are two options we could pursue here?

It forced them to think...but it also allowed them to think. You’d be amazed by the results. Within a few months - people would come to my office with a question, and their ideas for the solution and all I’d do was smile and give them a thumbs up saying great idea.

Leaders listen and give their people space to figure things out.

2: Ask questions!

I’m one of those guys that asks a lot of questions. I like to ask questions, I like to get people talking and sharing. It is empowering to tell someone “I want to hear what you have to say”

Leaders ask a lot of questions because they want to learn, not just talk. They want to give strength to their employees, not just answers.

They want to understand their perspective and point of view - not just assume.

Get strong at asking clarifying questions to refine the problem. Get strong at asking questions that force them to think bigger than just their problem like “well if you make that choice did you consider the budget?”

Ask questions that push people to think for themselves -- don’t just tell them the answers. This is important in parenting too FYI. My kids think I answer every question with a question -- they don’t realize I stole concept that from Socrates. Maybe next year when my daughter starts 7th grade she’ll study ancient Greek philosophers and go “hey!”

3: Guide people through goal setting --

This is where leaders really stand out. Young staff don’t always have the ability to see their future and how it may develop, they can’t see beyond because they don’t know what is beyond. Plus they are very comfortable thinking in immediate terms as individual contributors. They don’t think 4-6 months ...or 2-3 years...ahead.

This is where you can help bring a big-picture perspective to their world. Helping to create a plan to reach a down the line goal is some really powerful stuff.

This goal setting exercise can help spark a cohesive plan that all parties are aware of and headed towards. That’s a team at work.

4: Constructive feedback.

I used to allow my staff to make decisions, and then analyze the results with them. Now, of course, if I thought their course of action was monumentally terrible I would speak up -- but if a producer said “hey I want to try coming right off the show open and jump directly into game highlights tonight”

I’d allow for it, maybe have a couple of clarifying questions -- like “how do you think the anchors will react to this idea?”  

And then let them roll with their idea. The next day, or after the show, we’d discuss and I’d allow for them to say their thoughts, and then I’d provide mine. I’d always start by saying, I want you to feel like you can try things, but that doesn’t always mean I’ll agree with them, and we’re going to have a real discussion afterward.

Feedback doesn’t mean pats on the back, it means having a real discussion.

In my experience, these four actions are how leaders act. And anyone can be a leader - this isn’t reserved for 20-year veterans. Work on your listening skills, which I want to be clear are different than enabling skills if someone is always whining you don’t have to listen to that crap and make them feel enabled and entitled. That’s when you can speak up and say “I think I’ve heard enough”

But for the most part, listening when the person is focused, is incredibly powerful, asking questions, helping to set goals and providing honest feedback are the tools to becoming a great leader.

Alisha, start practicing now and before you know it you’ll be the person people gravitate towards and the upper management starts to notice for the right reasons!

Alright, that’s it for this week’s QA session -- talk to you all later -- it’s time to get back to work!

By Brian Clapp | June 03, 2019
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