The Role of Leadership in Team Building and Dynamics

Leadership as a concept has a multitude of theories, debates, and controversy behind it based on the situations and climate amongst different industries and activities. The leadership of a team or group has typically been viewed as a major factor in the success of a team. There are multiple levels of leadership in a team or group. Many teams have owners, general managers, head coaches, coaching assistants, and other leadership positions, this does not negate the leadership of team captains, veterans and other leaders that add to the
leadership ranks. There are also types of leadership such as formal and informal. (Bosselut, G.,Boiché, J., Salamé, B., Fouquereau, E., Guilbert, L., & Serrano, O. C.2018)

In sports, an interestingly new type of leadership has become more common over the past 20 years, specifically in the sports of basketball, and that it is known as “transformative leadership”. Transformative leadership is flexible as opposed to frigid. An example in the NBA would be comparing Coach Larry Brown (Philadelphia 76ers) or Chuck Daily (Detroit Pistons) to the coaching styles of Eric Spoelstra (Miami Heat) or Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers) and Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors). The first set of coaches mentioned are discipline focused, using strength and rigid structure, while the second set of coaches are flexible involving more players and others into the scope or decision making and strategy. There are also different types of players, some with more rigid and aggressive styles of leadership, that is more cumbersome and controlling while there are others that rely more so on the overall team aspect. Many argue that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had more rigid leadership styles while Lebron James was more flexible in his approach to leadership. These players and coaches embody a variety of different leadership theories.

As with all things, sports included challenges exist and occur, obstacles are a guarantee, much a team’s success depends on how their leaders lead during these occurrences. We are going to focus on a set of potential leadership challenges
and their potential impact on the team. (Crozier, A. J., Loughead, T. M., & Munroe-Chandler, K. J. 2013)

Leadership Challenges:

Internal conflict amongst the team concerning positions.

Potential Impact:

Player effort may decrease.

Player may fail at assigned role or position.

Decreased cohesion due to jealousy over status.

Loss of team pride by some players.

Team disagreement about plays and startegy.

Potential Impact:

Confusion leades to failed execution of plays and strategy.

Missed opportunities to discover new talents amongst the team or group.


The coaches and athletes mentioned would respond to these challenges in different ways based on their leadership style and personality. Coaches such as Larry Brown or perhaps Chuck Daily along with athletes Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant
will likely re-iterate the structure of power based on rank and status essentially “putting players back in their place”. Michael Jordan was known to yell, curse and even request that the coach substitute players. Kobe Bryant
once refused to shoot during a game in order to force his teammates to adjust to their roles and jobs. Coaches such as Erik Spoelstra and Steve Kerr, along with players like LeBron James would adjust the strategy and plays to get more
teammates involved in order to make them more motivated and invested in the team. Leaders in both business and sports have a responsiblity to create an enviorment that fosters teamwork, positivity in order to increase focus and execution of strategy.


Beauchamp, M. R., & Eys, M. A. (Eds.). (2014). GroupDynamics in Exercise and Sport Psychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY:Routledge.

Bosselut, G., Boiché, J., Salamé, B., Fouquereau, E., Guilbert, L.,& Serrano, O. C. (2018). Transformational leadership and group cohesion in
sport: Examining the mediating role of interactional justice using a within-
and between-team approach. International Journal of Sports Science& Coaching, 13(6), 912–928.

Crozier, A. J., Loughead, T. M., & Munroe-Chandler, K. J. (2013).Examining the benefits of athlete leaders in sport. Journal of SportBehavior, 36(4), 346–364.