Leaders in Profile: Developing Winning Leadership in Competitive Sports

11/18/2012 12:00 AM ,

“Leadership is getting others to want to do something you are convinced should be done.” With that quote from Jim Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s work, The Student Leadership Challenge, I finally understood that leadership is all about behaviors—behaviors that are perceived by others to be real and authentic, because they are. I came to understand that leadership is about respect and a passionate commitment that motivates others to action. That’s the inspiration and clarity I needed to begin my journey to mastering the art of leadership.

Growing up in a close-knit community, and as an active athlete in competitive sports, I had plenty of role models and mentors who helped guide me. My parents, teachers, coaches, and peers instilled in me a set of core values that gave me the confidence to go off to college 3,000 miles away. Leaving family and friends behind on the east coast, I arrived at the University of Oregon as a freshman starter for the University’s Division I Women’s Lacrosse Team. It took me no time at all to realize that in this new environment, being this far from home and engaging at this level of competitive play, more than ever I had to trust my peers and teammates, and follow and respond to their leadership.

Watching and learning from others as they modeled effective leadership helped me become clearer about my own beliefs and values. However, the real turning point for me was when I got the chance to participate in a summer program of The Student Leadership Challenge Workshop held at the University. Experiencing first-hand how The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® could work in my own life dramatically changed my view of leadership in general and of myself as leader.

Every leadership book I’d read and course or seminar I’d taken prior to the workshop had basically provided the same definition of leadership and only very generic information about what it takes to be a leader. It was as though all leaders are the same. But not The Student Leadership Challenge. The Student Leadership Practices Inventory (Student LPI) assessment, in particular, was beyond eye-opening for me. The Student LPI was different from anything I’d experienced before. It not only laid out a very clear model of what exemplary student leaders do when they are at their best; it showed me specifically what I needed to do to be a better leader. That personal insight is what truly allowed me to grow and excel as a leader in every aspect of my life—especially as an athlete and being part of a team.

In competitive sports, just as in business, building strong bonds with people is what makes for a cohesive team. And these personal relationships have to be built on honesty and trust. Everyone thinks and feels differently, and has concerns that need to be heard and acknowledged. As a team leader, it was crucial that everyone knew they could come to me, that I was readily available to listen—even if I didn’t agree. And when times got tough, that’s when trust and those personal relationships really mattered.

There always are times when things don’t work out the way you planned. In business, you might lose contracts. In sports, you lose some games. As a team, you don’t play as well as you know you can. There are disappointments. But in my role as a leader of a competitive sports team, I found it vital to take negatives and turn them into positives, to help my teammates or colleagues see that every challenge was a potential opportunity. Taking a losing game that often could be demoralizing to the team, I would focus on what we did right. Of course, we had to look at our own mistakes and where we failed to take advantage of openings our opponents might have given us during the game. But the important thing I tried to zero in on was how we could learn from these mistakes and make them work for us in the next match. For example, leading the lacrosse team to our first-ever winning season and conference win as a program was not always easy, but being able to face those obstacles together as a team is what made us successful.  During games where we were making unnecessary mistakes and really not playing at our best, we were able to stop and recognize the mistakes we were making and refocus on what we needed to do differently. Despite the frustration, we made sure that we listened to each other and kept the discussion open until we found a solution we all agreed would move us forward to a successful outcome. 

With everyone on our Women’s Lacrosse team being highly competitive, striving to do their best, another important aspect of building a healthy, positive team was accountability. And practicing that important leadership behavior started with me. I’ve always tried to set the example: to hold myself accountable for my actions, for what I’m striving to achieve, and for making sure that my personal goals align with those of the team.  In fact, that is one factor that played a role in my becoming a team captain—in just my second year on the team, as a sophomore. Initially, gaining the respect of my older teammates while also proving to the team and coaches that I had what it took to be an effective leader was a challenge. But in the end, it was clear that age didn’t matter. I was able to demonstrate that I held myself accountable for putting my words into action. As a younger member of the team, I didn’t say much. Instead, I followed in the footsteps of my two older co-captains and focused on doing rather than just talking about what I wanted to do or what I could do. It proved to be a very important learning as I became a team captain myself.

For me, respect, responsiveness, and integrity also are essential to being an effective student leader. Respect is a two-way street—while it’s important to earn the respect of others it is equally important to respect others, too. I believe in the saying, “Treat others as you would want to be treated” and throughout my day I try to make sure that I show respect to those around me. It’s especially important when meeting people for the first time to keep an open mind and give them the respect that you would want them to give you.   

As a leader—and really as a person—it is also very important to stay engaged, not only in your own life but also in the lives of others. It’s not about me leading others in a vacuum, or leading based on just what I think. Being responsive means that I need to stop and listen to others’ wants, needs, and concerns and from that create a goal or a vision we all can share.

And to keep all of that in balance, I think integrity might be the most important component of all. Although it is important to respect and be responsive to others, as young people we can sometimes get too caught up in the needs, wants, and concerns of our peers and, in the end, lose our way. That’s why integrity is so critical. We need to always remember to be proud of who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for. 

Leadership is a continuing journey, one I am still on. Every day I ask myself, “What can I do to be better?  What can I do to move ahead in my journey?” And most importantly I ask myself if I am happy with the person I am as a leader. My hope is that the legacy I leave at the University of Oregon and one I will continue to build on going forward will be that people will remember me as someone with whom they formed a trusting relationship and who made a positive impact on their lives.  As I move beyond graduation in spring 2013, I hope one day to become part of an athletic program where I can help the next generation of student-athletes accomplish their goals, hopes, and dreams—just as all those along the way have helped me.

Colleen Taggart is currently a student leader at the University of Oregon, working toward graduating in spring 2013 with a double major in Psychology and Sociology along with a double minor in Business Administration and Sports Conflict Resolution. Captain of the University’s Division 1 Women’s Lacrosse Team for three years, Colleen twice earned First-Team All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Honors, was named to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federations All-Tournament Team, and was selected in her junior year to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum—while maintaining a 3.00 GPA or higher for three consecutive terms. She can be reached at taggart.colleen@gmail.com.  

 

Category: Success Stories

What they are saying...

"Why wait to learn leadership in the workplace? Students can learn how to lead by using Kouzes and Posner's five proven leadership practices. [This] is the perfect guide for...[those] seeking to develop themselves for leadership."
– Howard T. Prince II
University of Texas, Austin

What they are saying...

"I've been teaching leadership classes for twenty years, and The Five Practices are, hands down, the best tool for helping students see both their inherent strengths as leaders as well as to further develop their skills."
– Britt Andreatta
University of California, Santa Barbara

What they are saying...

"[The Student Leadership Challenge] (book) is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings. workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

Corey Hill "The greatest part about being in the virtual community was being able to hear the instructors, talk about the material we were discussing, as well as having our own discussion as a class with our other classmates over chat. You got a lot of interaction with the material, a lot of takes and nuances on what other people were taking away from the material that I don’t think you would get in a traditional classroom setting."
– Corey Hill
Oklahoma State University

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Practices Inventory is the best tool I have used to help students assess their leadership effectiveness because it translates the concept of leadership into actions and relationships. By defining and measuring specific leadership behaviors, the Student LPI allows students to see how they are doing as leaders and to determine how they can improve."
– Cathy Early
National Interfraternity Conference

What they are saying...

"The student examples inspire the reader and show us that running into bumps along the way is not only normal, but that you can approach the challenges with confidence and practical solutions."
– Amanda Crowell Itliong
Stanford University

What they are saying...

"The authors set out to teach college student leaders to understand what it takes to be an effective leader, to inspire them to find their own unique skills and abilities, and to explore and discover where their leadership will make the most difference in the lives of others and in the success of their organization.  I believe they have succeeded."
– William L. Kibler
Mississippi State University
NASPA Journal, 2009, Vol. 46, no. 4

What they are saying...

"The experience of the Certified Leadership Training left me feeling more confident and equipped to provide better leadership training to my student leaders."
– Erica Lara
Nyack College, NY

What they are saying...

"The 5 practices are a must!  Demonstrating and understanding the [concept that] 'leadership is an art' that must be taught to our students was incorporated throughout the training."
– Jerry Alva
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"This is a great opportunity for any person looking to develop a program that involves The Student Leadership Challenge."
– Miguel Trevino
Texas A&M International University

What they are saying...

"I am more equipped to develop a leadership program that will have a positive impact on the students at my institution."
– Andrew Moyer
Delaware Valley College, PA

What they are saying...

"Employers are looking for students who have content knowledge and practical experience working in teams and leading others. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent example of the behaviors needed to accomplish extraordinary tasks that can get you noticed by a potential employer."
– Kevin Bailey, vice president for student affairs
University of West Florida

What they are saying...

"Beth and Gary are so personable that I was totally comfortable asking anything. For a program with such vigor, these two facilitators do an amazing job of creating a safe, fun, and functional learning environment."
– Certified Facilitator Training participant

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is a gift to university educators who teach leadership courses or develop trainings, workshops, and retreats."
– Laura Osteen
Florida State University

What they are saying...

"Developing transformative learning environments for leadership education begins when we embrace the use of emerging technologies and social media to enhance student learning."
– Todd Foley, assistant director for the Student Involvement Center
Saint Louis University

What they are saying...

"Leadership is a journey of personal and organizational discovery… understanding that the best way to learn is to teach, we decided to take on the challenge of having our students teach others.
"
– Vince Bellafiore
Marmion Academy

What they are saying...

"We know that The Student Leadership Challenge is making a difference. Through continuous coaching and intervention, with the use of the Student LPI, we are helping to keep our young people engaged in the pursuit of exemplary leadership."
– Melvin Chia
Lifeskills Enrichment, Singapore

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are everywhere. And as important as it is to exhibit those qualities yourself as a leader, it is just as critical to see them in others, and to be driven and inspired by other people’s leadership.
"
– Nina Vasan and Jennifer Przybylo
authors of Do Good Well

What they are saying...

"Consider the college campus as a leadership laboratory—a place where students have multiple opportunities to practice their leadership skills and explore and develop their leadership identity.
"
– Marcy Levy Shankman
Cleveland Leadership Center

What they are saying...

"I am so passionate about leadership and making a difference and I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly believe in The Student Leadership Challenge model. It is complete, yet simple enough, for all to understand. SO very excited to share this model with others, both on-campus and in the community.
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"I feel that a program like this could really work in helping to eventually change our culture within our schools, homes, and businesses. Although I am not a supervisor, I plan to implement the model fully in our office and look forward to sharing it with coworkers. I love The Student Leadership Challenge model and am so excited!
"
– Suzanne Von Behren, RN, BSN, University Wellness Services
Northwest Missouri State

What they are saying...

"The Student Leadership Challenge is one of the most robust teaching and learning opportunities we have as educators. The Five Practices are identifiable and learnable skills allowing an individual to improve by receiving feedback and observation and by setting goals.
"
– Jason R. Pierce, director of education
Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity

What they are saying...

"And so again [leadership development] becomes foundational, it becomes a foundational understanding of living your values, of challenging the process to make things better, enabling others to act. It’s not just delegating, it’s about giving people the passion and the power to it themselves.
"
– Matt Baker, Vice President of Student Affairs
Northwest Missouri State University

What they are saying...

"Within the academy, we are constantly seeking additional tools to assist us in teaching the valuable lesson of leadership development for students. The Student Leadership Challenge is an excellent resource to assist in the important goal of helping students to become better leaders and, ultimately, stellar citizens in the communities of the world.
"
– Victor K Wilson, vice president for student affairs
The University of Geogia

What they are saying...

"Student leadership challenges are quite similar to adult challenges, and yet they differ as wel­­l– in scale and in the power of peer perspective. Kouzes and Posner have constructed a wide and sturdy bridge across these worlds. My college students will find relevant lessons and great inspiration in the diverse and compelling stories that are retold. We’d have a lot less adult leadership problems if more teachers and students used this great book.
"
– Dan Mulhern, Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Business
University of California, Berkeley, and author Everyday Leadership: Getting Results in Business, Politics and Life

What they are saying...

"Kouzes and Posner provide a comprehensive, research-based, and values-driven resource that is packed with real-life examples. This book makes leadership highly accessible to college students and is sure to empower the next generation to tap into their potential as leaders and social change agents.
"
– Jennifer R. Keup, director
National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

What they are saying...

"The Five Practices has provided a framework for students to reflect on their leadership experience and restructure their philosophy and theories relating to leadership as they challenge themselves through these five practices.
"
– Amy Kuo, Somchanhmavong, associate director
Service-Learning, Public Service Center, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"As a Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator I am excited about using these books to further aid me in developing curriculum and giving our students a tool to acknowledge and reflect on the concepts as they pertain to their own capacity to lead effectively."
– Deborah Mann, Student Leadership Challenge Certified Facilitator
BOLD Leadership Program, Cornell University

What they are saying...

"In our public service leadership programs and courses we will be able to easily use the many relevant and engaging activities and reflection exercises provided in this workbook. It will enable our students to better engage with and benefit from The Student Leadership Challenge, and will also help foster their personal leadership development journeys."
– Jon McConnell, associate director,
Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University

What they are saying...

"Every young person dreams of doing something extraordinary. The Student Leadership Challenge provides everything this generation needs to turn a dream into reality."
– Brian C. Warren Jr., executive director
Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

What they are saying...

"A book of genuinely effective activities for enagaging students at all levels, turning the novice facilitator into a pro. It includes easy-to-use concepts that readily apply to life as a leader, and is a real difference maker that fosters success!"
– Randy D. Grimes, human resources director
Duke University

What they are saying...

"A fantastic resource for leadership educators looking to further develop students’ understanding of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership in a tangible, hands-on way! It offers engaging activities that are sure to make an impact on your student leaders. This activity book is a great supplement to The Student Leadership Challenge, bringing the original concepts off the page and into the real world.
"
– Kimberly Piatt, coordinator of leadership development
The College at Brockport.

What they are saying...

"An excellent one-stop resource for activities to engage student of different learning styles. Students will find the experiential nature of the activities easy to comprehend and most importantly be able to see the relevance and application of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership."
– Melvin Chia, principal consultant
Lifeskills Enrichment

What they are saying...

"From what, to so what, and now what, this guide helps take educators on a journey of not only understanding The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership but also specifically on how to apply, practice, and teach the nuances of these exemplary leadership ways of being."
– Laura Osteen, professor of higher education, Florida State University
and director, Florida State’s Center for Leadership and Civic Education

What they are saying...

"The Facilitation and Activity Guide would have helped me not only to develop a better leadership program but to be a better leader myself. For those administering The Five Practices, this guide ‘Models the way’ and will be one of your best coaches."
– Sam Eriksmoen, former director, Emerging Leaders Program
University of North Dakota

What they are saying...

"Educators working at all levels will benefit from [The Facilitation and Activity Guide]. It is practical, applicable to diverse sectors, and works."
– Katie Burke, director, L.E.A.D. (Leadership Education & Development)
Florida Atlantic University