As a student-athlete it’s your choice to become a team leader. Because you are a student, leadership is an educational decision. If you truly desire a leadership role, you’ll need to make a commitment to preparing for the many challenges that will emerge daily. Learning to lead is a physical, intellectual, emotional, and social endeavor that leads to growth and development in leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities. When you choose to become a team leader you will have chosen to achieve your highest aspirations and potential. Those athletes that accept the challenge and learn to become leaders will be rewarded in a variety of ways throughout their life.
Becoming a team leader does not mean paying lip service to the role and responsibilities of team leadership. Rather, leadership will require you to exhibit courage, display character, and make a commitment to contributing to your team in this “extra” role.
Think back over your experiences as a student-athlete. Ask which individuals truly delivered leadership that significantly impacted the team. In some cases you may have had exceptional team leaders, individuals you thought had a calling to lead. In others, you may have felt the team would have been better off without their leadership.
Most student-athletes choose not to become team leaders. They are unwilling to venture outside their comfort zone. These are the ones that say “I lead by example” and leave it at that. However, it will take a bold act of courage for you to engage with your teammates as a peer leader. The essence of team leadership is the act of making a difference. Choose to lead courageously and make a difference.
Courage is necessary to withstand the challenges you’ll experience as a team leader. No doubt about it, peer leadership is difficult. Team leadership requires you to make good choices and use sound judgment. At times it will be necessary for you to distance yourself from your teammates and friends. Your teammates will question your commitment, your skills, and your abilities as a leader. At times they will challenge your efforts to redirect them toward team goals and a collective vision. Some teammates will praise you while others will criticize you. The successful leader is able to withstand the criticism, learn from it, and become an influential and effective leader.
The challenges of team leadership are likely to create a sense of self-doubt and confusion in the early stages of learning to lead. It’s likely that you’ll experience some fear and frustration. For many new team leaders the turbulence of leading will test their character. Yet, by sticking with the educational decision to become a team leader, you’ll find that the tests and demands of leadership will help you discover your character—serving as vital forces to build your character.
To guide and influence teammates the right way and in the right direction, you must possess a moral compass. High character leaders are driven by internal standards, standards that are not normal by any measure. Leaders of character act with integrity and are always asking themselves, “How do my actions affect the welfare of my teammates?” High character leaders demonstrate respect for their teammates and value their contributions. They are concerned with trustworthiness, responsibility to others, authentic caring, and commitment to a purpose.
The decision to become a team leader requires a high level of devotion to the responsibilities of leading and commitment to growing as a leader. A starting point is learning what a leader does, what a leader must know, and who a leader must be.
A leader is expected to make an extraordinary contribution to the team. As a team leader, dedicate yourself to the goals and vision of the team and help your teammates reach their full potential. Your role as a team leader will provide you ample opportunities to make many contributions to the team.
Leadership is a way to leverage your talent and those of your teammates. As Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough…and single-handed I can move the world.” Learn to lead and you will move your teammates and the world too.
Leadership is not easy. Prepare yourself for the challenge.
Published 09-07-2011 © 2022 Access Athletes, LLCKeywords: Character, Commitment, Courage, Leader, Leadership, Student-Athlete, Team Leader