I posed this question to leaders and it can also be posed to young athletes: “Would you follow you?” To be a successful leader amongst your peers, you must first be a good teammate and dedicated player. You must also know how to follow to be able to successfully lead. Leadership is a learned skill – it is the character traits guiding the leader’s behavior that defines that person’s ability to gain the respect of his or her followers. Think of whom you view as leaders amongst your fellow athletes. Is their leadership based simply on great athletic ability, or is there more to it? Being a leader does not stem from just being the best at a sport or a task. True leaders exhibit character traits that breed respect, inspiration or motivation in others. This is connected to one’s sportsmanship, rather than skill in a sport itself. Sportsmanship includes ethical, appropriate, gracious and fair behavior. It is about the conduct and attitude of a player, which has nothing to do with being a superior athlete.
What characteristics have you learned or developed in sportsmanship and integrity? Having a supportive coach or mentor is important to have as it fosters growth and provides guidance as your navigate the challenges of both your sport and adulthood. Look inward and scrutinize your Discipline, Action, Accountability, Responsibility and Integrity (DAARI). Do others look to follow your example? Would a coach or parent recommend that others emulate your character and behavior? What do your teammates say about you and have you earned their respect? Strive for praise to be based not on how well you played, but how well you behaved. This includes your behavior after the game and off the field. An indicator of strong leadership skills is consistency in conduct regardless of the audience.
Assess your readiness to lead and where you can strengthen your skills. As an athlete and as a young adult, constantly strive to be able to say “yes” to the question,
“Would you follow you?”