Leadership research within the sport and exercise domain has almost exclusively focused on coaches. Given that the leadership structure of sports teams also includes team captains, this is an obvious oversight and more recent research has investigated leadership stemming from players (Hirsch & Loughead, 2020). Whilst an improvement, this is still removed from the reality of the combined coach and captain leadership experienced by team members.
A complete picture of leadership can only emerge if the role of followers is considered; this is not unique to sports teams. Leadership cannot exist without the energy and enthusiasm of followers (Steffens & Haslam, 2020). Nevertheless, leader-centric analyses continue to have a broad appeal and theorising around leadership has evolved to become independent of followership.
The current work seeks to rectify this this by conducting analyses of leader and follower behaviours exhibited at differing leadership levels, whereby the effect of a leader is examined within the context of their immediate follower. Research examining the interactions between leaders (coaches) and followers (captains) would not only better reflect the lived experience of team members (players), but it would also meet calls for a greater integration of leadership and followership research (Steffens et al., 2020).
The main thrust of the proposal is therefore to utilise integrative analytical techniques and theorising to evaluate leader-follower dynamics through a more unified lens.
Impact outside of academia
Findings will be translated into learning resources used by nationally recognised organisations such as UK Coaching who run courses and disseminate e-resources aimed at sports coaches, sport scientists, and teachers. Consequently, this will help to refine coach education programmes as well as stimulate efforts to better develop the leadership skills of largely youth aged captains.