Coaching Leadership to Achieve Peak Performance

Subject: Education
Pages: 25
Words: 28022
Reading time:
108 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

In Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball, coaches are prominent figures that serve as teachers, mentors, ethical practitioners, role models, and leaders who attempt to articulate and manipulate the mission and systems taught to influence others (Hicks & McCracken, 2010). In the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) successful and unsuccessful athletic coaches are often critiqued on one’s win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates. The NCAA was established in 1906 and serves as governing body for athletics for more than 1,300 colleges, universities, conferences, and organizations (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.).

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Even more significant is the fact that athletic coaches bear similarities and differences relative to business, spiritual, political, educational, or military leaders (Krzyzewski & Phillips, 2000). Leadership scholars are in agreement that coaching and commitment cultures are now increasingly replacing the command, control, and compartmentalization orientations of past leadership models (Kets de Vries, 2005). Additionally, existing sports scholarship demonstrates that the role of the leader is critical and often transparent on athletic teams where organizational success is measured by team success and coaches are held accountable for the teams’ performance (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989).

Over the years, one area that has gone largely unexplored from a leadership perspective is the context of athletic coaching and the uptake of diverse leadership styles to deliver peak performance. Opinion still remains divided on whether the act of coaching is basically an evolved form of leadership (Kemp, 2009), or even more explicitly, the best leadership styles that could be adopted and implemented by professional coaches in athletic coaching (Hicks & McCracken, 2011). The role of leadership in athletic coaching has been equated to what normally transpires in traditional business settings (Krzyzewski & Phillips, 2000), it is not yet clear whether athletic coaches should employ a leadership style that provides substantial attention to the people, systems and processes through which operational control is exercised (Walker & Bopp, 2010), or whether they should focus energies on nurturing cooperation and mutual commitment (Hicks & McCracken, 2011). In the absence of solid research on the topic, the proposed phenomenological qualitative study aims to explore four individual Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches’ perceptions of one’s leadership behaviors and styles used to lead others in light of their own self-assessment using Dr. Jim Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment. More specifically, the proposed inquiry will seek to discover if the extent of perceived characteristics of servant leadership by women’s NCAA Division II head basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) is related to the extent of exceptional performances noted from student-athletes within this region.

To achieve its overall objectives, the proposed phenomenological qualitative study will provide a description of why Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaching methods align to Dr. Jim Laub’s (1999) six characteristics of servant leadership through the use of his Organizational Leadership Assessment, and which characteristics are most critical in leading a team to get the best performance from athletes. Qualitative inquiry is a process of documentation and description, with the view to not only identifying patterns, concepts, and relationships between concepts, but also creating theoretical explanations that explain reality (Welford Murphy & Casey, 2012).

A phenomenology research methodology will be employed to identify the “essence” of human experiences about the relationships and differences between preferred leadership styles, perceived leadership styles, influence in decision-making, satisfaction with participation, and job satisfaction as described by participants, with the view to exploring why servant leadership characteristics may be needed to excel in coaching sports. Organizational leadership assessments will be employed requiring each participant to self-rate themselves using Dr. Jim Laub’s instrument and the researcher will interview the participants to investigate how the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches operationally use the various characteristics in coaching.

One important aspect of a coach’s leadership is the selection of coaching styles and methodologies used as a leader; that is, the way in which a leader makes decisions, builds relationships, teaches skills and strategies, organizes training and competition, maintains team discipline, assigns roles and positions to athletes, communicates, makes efforts to satisfy athletes’ needs, and creates an appropriate motivational climate to maximize the team concept and influence team cohesion and production (Heydarinejad & Adman, 2010). Leadership techniques that apply to the workplace are similar to those found in sports. When everyone on the team understands the direction and approach the leader/coach has developed, then success is much easier to obtain. This driving force of competition in sports as a coach and a player emphasizes more on leadership.

In full context the topic of leadership has been an in-depth topic of speculation for decades focusing on the effectiveness of leadership theories. Various leadership models center on different theories, different ways of evaluating effectiveness, different approaches for studying leadership, and how it forges and affects organizational outcomes and effectiveness (Wren, 1995). Each theory provides an opportunity to understand leader-follower relationships and methods to use when attempting to motivate others (Avolio & Yammarino, 2008). New ideas and theories underlie research into leadership styles in business, nonprofit organizations and other organizations, bearing strong similarities with leadership in coaching, the focus of this study. This study will focus on exploring various leadership characteristics used by Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches to explain what leadership approach is most effective in terms of one’s own perceptions or behaviors and styles used to lead others in light of their own self-assessment against Dr. Jim Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment. Ultimately, the proposed study seeks to enhance the literature in the area of coaching leadership by offering insights into successful leadership practices used in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball.

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Available leadership literature demonstrates “a shift in this new century from a traditional autocratic and hierarchical style of leadership to a leadership style that promotes teamwork, sense of community, shared decision-making, and an ethical caring of qualities with the goal of improving others’ personal growth” (Spears, 1998 p.34) This phenomenological qualitative study will take on a specific focus to describe and explore the listed signs, behaviors, or attitudes that demonstrate the use of certain styles of leadership. To achieve improvement in athletic performance, it may be necessary for coaches to use leadership styles or engage in coaching behaviors to which athletes are most receptive (Gould, Dieffenbach & Moffett, 2002).

Background

Today, basketball rates as one of the all-time most popular sports worldwide (Kellett, 1999). Women’s basketball has evolved greatly and needs more research in the leadership field. The history of women’s basketball began shortly after Dr. James Naismith created the original game and rules in 1891 (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.). The roots of women’s basketball lead us back to Senda Berenson, born on March 19, 1868 in Vilna, Lithuania (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.). In 1892, she worked as Director of Physical Education and Instructor at Smith College (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.). She trained at the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Senda Berenson was hired at Smith College in1892; James Naismith at the International YMCA Training School in nearby Springfield Massachusetts hired her one-month after the game of basketball had been invented (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.). At Smith College, Berenson instituted an effective program of Swedish gymnastics for female students and organized athletic contests in sports, such as volleyball, fencing, field hockey, and basketball (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.).

Berenson read about the new sport of basketball and went to visit Naismith to learn more about the game (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.). Fascinated by this new sport and the values it could teach, Berenson organized the first women’s collegiate basketball game on March 21, 1893 between Smith College freshmen and sophomores (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.). Berenson, who advocated for women’s sports, had her thoughts inclined toward the limitations and restrictions, which would interfere with a female to avoid the unwanted physical play of the men’s game.

To restrict the physical limitations, Berenson authored new rules first published in 1899, with Berenson becoming the editor of A.G. Spalding’s first Women’s Basketball Guide two years later (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.). Berenson died on February 16, 1954. On July 1, 1985, she was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as the first female ever to be enshrined (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.). During her time, the words gender equity did not exist. Female athletes encountered division and discrimination even though the evolvement of women’s sports began to shine with accomplishments by female athletes and important advancements toward the empowerment of women’s opportunities in sports (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.).

The modern women’s movement achieved historic victory of gender equity on June 23, 1972, when Title IX was enacted as part of the Educational Amendments (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.). Global and regional leaders created policies on women, gender equality, and targeted critical gender equity issues in sports to protect female rights (Brake, 2010). Title IX of the United States educational amendments prohibited sex discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funds and unlocked opportunities for significantly increasing support for female participation in sports throughout high schools and colleges in the United States (Blumenthal, 2005). According to the official website of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, “Title IX requires women be provided an equitable opportunity to participate in sport; female athletes receive athletic scholarships proportional to participation; and that female athletes receive equal treatment of scheduling of games and practice times, practice and competitive facilities, equipment and supplies, publicity and promotions, access to tutoring, recruitment of student-athletes, and coaching” (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.). Title IX has notably increased coaching salaries for women’s athletic teams (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.).

It appears that over the years Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches have had to battle gender equity issues and lack of practical opportunities to develop leaders, in large part due to the under representation of women not only as coaches but also in other leadership positions in women’s sports (Walker & Bopp, 2010). Interestingly, many coaches have been unable to focus solely on one’s leadership style, watch videos, read books, study periodicals, attend clinics or colleges, and sharpen skills to best develop what is needed. These shortcomings notwithstanding, Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches have an obligation to develop the capacities of female college athletes and provide a leadership approach that is oriented toward high satisfaction levels and peak performance for female student-athletes. It is therefore of interest to identify coaching leadership methods and styles used by Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches to achieve successful coaching leadership practices.

Problem Statement

The problem is Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches are not equipped with the qualifications or level of experience to excel in coaching sports in today’s field of athletics. Researchers have confirmed that a coach’s win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates may result in negative outcomes, specifically when coaches do not use various forms of leadership to adapt to different athlete personalities, situations that occur throughout the season, and when providing direction to followers. Presently there is a calling for new models of leadership in sport settings, which emphasize:

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  1. athlete empowerment,
  2. democratic behavior from coaches, and
  3. less emphasis on traditional autocratic fear-based coaching models (Jamison, 2005).

Modern day athletes prefer leaders who:

  1. seek input regarding team decisions,
  2. provide positive feedback and recognition,
  3. exhibit sensitivity to athletes needs in and out of sport setting, and
  4. demonstrate an athlete-centered attitude (Jamison, 2005).

Researchers who have studied the servant leadership model have shown growing success through evidence to indicate that employees being coached by a servant-leader had an increase in motivation, had higher mental acuity, and were more satisfied with one’s organizational experience (Hayward, Neill, & Peterson, 2007).

Research has shown in theory and practice leadership implications on the performance of employees in organizations including business and education; however, little knowledge exists on leadership implications in sports teams. In the last couple of years, there has been an increased interest in testing a new paradigm of leadership that could be used by coaches within sport contexts to spur positive outcomes for teams as well as individual athletes (Fifer, 2006; Kilty, 2006). Indeed, Nicks & McCracken (2010) noted a lack of leadership paradigm and details concerning how women coaches respond to their teams’ environmental contexts as they seek to influence athletes’ behavior and achieve positive outcomes through demonstrated leadership. In response to this lack of a leadership paradigm and informed research concerning sports leadership, the problem to be investigated in the proposed study revolves around how to equip women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches with the best leadership characteristics and practices to excel in coaching sports in coaching basketball for peak performance in today’s competitive field of athletics. Similar to other organizations, athletic team coaches’ leadership has the potential for personal/team success with implications on one’s performance (Wooden, 2005 p. 178).

This qualitative research study will use a phenomenological approach with a focused attempt to understand issues of interest from the point of view of a Women’s NCAA Division II College basketball coach using a survey, along with personal interviews to test emerging concepts, patterns, themes, and categories against subsequent data. The population group for this study will be four Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches.

The proposed qualitative study will provide valuable insights into which leadership strategies and practices may be used by Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches to spur peak performance among female student-athletes, and also explore the value of the most appropriate leadership style in influencing female athletes to perform at a high level. Little educational research exists regarding the extent to which servant leadership style impact a coach’s win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates. As such, this study seeks to explore these differences and implications of the leadership styles, performance implications largely unknown, and the potential to address Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team leadership, providing coaches with increased awareness of the effect of one’s leadership style on performance and help determine the most effective leadership style needed to excel in coaching sports today.

Purpose Statement

While calls for effective leadership abound in research and literature, there remains a gap regarding the type of leadership style that women coaches in sports settings should actually demonstrate not only to positively influence athletes toward peak performance, but also to improve their win-loss record, enhance student-athlete grade point average, and sustain retention/graduation rates. The purpose of the proposed study is to solve the problem and fill the gap in current research by identifying, through the perceptions of women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches’, potential explanations of some of the best leadership strategies and practices within the servant leadership model that could then be employed by the coaches to assist student-athletes and teams with achieving peak performance. If the best leadership style for women coaches in charge of NCAA Division II college basketball teams truly exists, then the experiences of the people most closely related to positions of leadership will add valuable insights and understanding to the essence of such a leadership style. The choice of a phenomenological qualitative study is therefore informed by the need to describe the meaning or essence of the best leadership style demonstrated by women coaches in spurring peak performance among female student athletes.

Toward the realization of this purpose using a phenomenological inquiry, the proposed study will borrow heavily from the Organizational Leadership Assessment model to evaluate the described leadership characteristics in the context of its alignment with the six characteristics of servant leadership defined in the model (Laub, 1999). Laub’s six characteristics (authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) will be illuminated from the participants’ self-assessment indicating how one’s profile influences their coaching. As the study investigates the diverse elements surrounding various leadership styles in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaching practices, it is expected that a link will be established to describe the meaning or essence of these elements in stimulating peak performance among female student-athletes, as required of a phenomenological study (Baumgartner & Hensley, 2006).

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Significance of the Study to the Academic Field

The rationale of this study supports the need for quality athletic coaching leadership at the collegiate level. Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches provide access to higher education while developing young women through various leadership methods. Colleges seek to recruit high character ethical leaders with knowledgeable backgrounds of the sport, establish positive relationships, and understand the role that athletics play in education. Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches must promote good sportsmanship, be role models for athletes and fans, have personal interest in the development of others, and attract student-athletes to the program. College athletics provide competition and encourage athletic success while promoting and enhancing the reputation of the school. Quality coaches encourage pride and school spirit in the student population and offer enriching opportunities for social development. Significant contributions have been made in the development of individuals and teams as exemplified in one’s leadership roles with underlying leadership principles and concepts worthy emulating and replicating elsewhere toward excellent performance as individuals and teams.

Teams generate additional revenues to further educate and prepare students. The value of leadership in educational settings is unique, as leadership is needed in careers, family lives, and communities. By identifying the gap in knowledge for leadership in sports, the proposed study seeks to fill this gap by contributing positively to the exploration of the best leadership style that can be used by women basketball coaches to facilitate peak performance among female student-athletes, as well as providing enriching experiences for one’s intellectual and social development. The implications of the proposed study could lead to an increase in opportunities and access to quality coaching tactics for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches, and reinforce the belief that women basketball coaches can contribute immensely to the development of female student-athletes, not only academically but also through the use of sport to develop various leadership methods.

Nature of the Study

As noted earlier, the proposed study will set out to identify the best leadership strategies and practices Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches perceive themselves using to assist individual student-athletes as well as teams in achieving peak performance. The Organizational Leadership Assessment model, along with the six characteristics of servant leadership mentioned in the model (authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership), will be used as the basis to describe the meaning or essence of the most critical leadership elements that could be applied by coaches to get outstanding performance from athletes.

The nature of this study will be qualitative with a phenomenological methodology focus aimed at describing the meaning or essence of some of the important leadership elements from coaches who are currently in leadership positions in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball. Qualitative research is consistent with understanding “how” and “why” female basketball coaches adopt and implement various leadership styles, and the effects that these styles have on individual student-athletes as well as teams. Qualitative research is appropriate in this type of study as it not only aims to understand an underlying phenomenon from the participants’ own perspectives through lived experiences, but also employs a naturalistic approach to assist investigators understand context-specific phenomena in the real world that cannot in anyway be manipulated by investigators (Welford et al., 2012). Additionally, owing to its capacity to identify patterns, concepts and the relationships between concepts, qualitative research often yields rich, in-depth descriptions of the phenomenon of interest – in this case, some of the best leadership practices that could be used by coaches in the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams to achieve peak performance among female student-athletes.

Extant literature demonstrates that “phenomenology is a strategy of inquiry in which the researcher identifies the essence of human experiences about a phenomenon as described by participants” (Welford et al., 2012 p. 30). The phenomenological methodology, according to Van Manen (2002), should help understand the lived experience (“what is it like”) of the study participants as well as the meaning they make of that experience within the context of leadership and the achievement of peak performance. In this view, the phenomenological qualitative approach is appropriate as the study examines participant experiences through multiple perspectives.

In phenomenological research studies, the sample size is usually small and purposeful, allowing researchers adequate leverage to study the issues of interest or phenomena in depth (Creswell, 2007). Consequently, the proposed study will involve exploring the lived experiences of four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches, with the view to identify fundamental elements that can be considered as critical in forming the best leadership style. It is important to mention that purposive sampling technique will be used to come up with a sample of participants who have prior knowledge and experience of the issues of interest (van Manen, 2002). Semi-structured interview technique will be used as the main procedure to collect primary data not only because of its close association with qualitative, human scientific research, but also due to its capacity to describe and explain the meaning of a phenomenon as it is lived by participants (Englander, 2012).

Research Questions

To explore and discover the best leadership style that could then be applied by coaches to assist individual student-athletes and teams to achieve peak performance within the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball, the proposed study will be guided by the following research questions:

  • RQ1: How do the six characteristics of servant leadership (authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) influence the performance of the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team?
  • RQ2: How does the servant leadership style for coaches lead to improve peak performance in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams?

The first research question one (RQ1) will focus on looking at the lived experience of participants in an attempt to isolate instances of leadership that fit the description of any of the six characteristics of servant leadership, with the view to demonstrating how the instances have shaped the performance of the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. The major function of research question two (RQ2) will be to tie the key success factors identified to the attributes that define peak performance as demonstrated by the performance of the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

Conceptual/Theoretical Framework

Every discipline has concepts and theories, which shape research studies. This study presents a review of leadership theories and capability frameworks that will assist the development of aspiring leaders in the field of coaching sports. Each individual studied will offer insights into the qualities of successful leaders and identify any shifts in generic characteristics and behaviors of leaders to the specifics of responding to different situations and contexts under a leaders’ role in relation to followers. This section on leadership presents a range of leadership theoretical frameworks being used in athletic organizations and could extend theory, practice, and methodology in coaching. To achieve this, proven leadership principles, assessment tools, tactics, traits, and frameworks based on a sports language with special focus on what is current with reflections on changing realities. This study focuses on an in-depth inquiry to reveal theoretical discussions on servant leadership based on the definition of leadership terms, inquiring into the body of theory and research linking to leadership that affects student-athlete performance. A model will be presented and tested that links servant leadership to an organizational culture defined by Dr. Jim Laub’s (1999) six characteristics of servant leadership.

Definitions

Servant Leadership

Robert K. Greenleaf developed the concept in 1970. Greenleaf coined his definition of servant leadership as, “Process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p. 20). The servant leader devotes these elements to provide services to address organizational needs reflected in the services provided to employees led by the leadership unequivocally implying being an end in themselves but not a means to organizational purpose fulfillment. Spears draws upon Greenleaf’s writing and proposes ten key elements of servant leadership: “Listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community…The underlying servant leadership behavior draws on stewardship toward the organization and the people” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21). The organization is held in trust by the servant leader to the public (Greenleaf, 1977), which is an objective balanced by a deep commitment to developing the people based on a sense of community throughout the organization (Greenleaf, 1977).

Coaching Leadership

Hodgkinson (2009) argues that coaching leadership targets the development of talent to attain the full potential of a team under the influence of corporate culture supported on an organization’s infrastructure embedded in its corporate culture for effectiveness (Larson & Richburg, 2003). It is a general definition is multidisciplinary. Leadership is not an inborn aptitude, but a transferable skill to guide team members toward an effective execution of team tasks, in working toward social cohesion, and in the attainment of individual development. Coaching leadership in the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaching draws on coaching leadership elements to develop and enhance team members’ skills to achieve maximum performance (Larson & Richburg, 2003).

In this case, the coach’s role is to direct team members toward the attainment of specific goals to develop the team. Analytically, the coach’s primary leadership responsibility is the entire team before targeting individuals as a secondary role. In the event that a team member’s development gets in the way of the team in the acquisition and use of a particular skill, the team leader focuses on the development of the team until a specific goal is attained before embarking on the development of the individual in need. The coach’s leadership’s tenets are grounded on clarity in training of members in the acquisition of leadership skills, task effectiveness in task executions, coachability of team members, organizational and individual commitment toward specific goals, clarity of objectives, course of action to take, and confidentiality influencing a team’s effectiveness in context (Larson & Richburg, 2003) calling for a sense of loyalty and a sacrificial role.

Peak Performance

Team performance, which formed the basis for evaluating the team performance, was questioned in Chelladurai’s (1990) studies. In this study, peak performance is defined “as advancement in an athlete’s pursuit of excellence” (LeUnes & Nation, 2002) with higher levels of performance forming the basis for the operational definition of the athletes’ performance. This study is important because every organization yearns for leadership. Leadership starts at the top of any successful organization and empowers others to succeed when individuals fulfill individual responsibilities (Turman & Schrodt, 2004). A lack of leadership primarily leads to organizational failure with leadership being the only competitive force underlying the success or failure, which is unequaled with variables including technology, finance, or others organizational variables (Turman & Schrodt, 2004). Leadership builds resources, organizational employees, and operational factors based organizational strategies formulated by the leadership, with performance being the key focus. This study will affect leadership practice and the epistemological approach in which coaches use to influence others to achieve one’s personal best.

Assumptions

Various leadership models draw on multidisciplinary definitions. Activities executed based on the human psychological function should be directed. This necessitates the need for a leadership role on the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Without the basic definition of a leadership style drawing directly from the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the working definitions will be multidisciplinary depending on the area targeted for discussion and context of application. Gender cannot impede one in becoming an effective leader if one develops and qualifies for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball head coaching position.

Scope

In this study, the researcher will seek to explore four individual Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches’ perceptions of one’s leadership behaviors and styles used to lead their student-athletes. Therefore, the researcher develops the focus of this study on existing leadership styles and coaching practices and how these styles and behaviors will affect individual’s and team’s in achieving peak performance. The sample for this study consists of four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference. For this phenomenological qualitative study, the researcher will conduct semi-structured interviews to allow the coaches to self-assess their own experiences using Dr. Jim Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment. These interviews will help the researcher determine themes based on coaches’ perceptions of servant leadership and the influences it has on achieving student-athlete and team peak performance.

Limitations/Delimitations

Limitations

Employing a phenomenological research methodology may limit the study not only due to the subjectivity of data collected through describing the meaning or essence of participants’ lived experience, but also because of researcher bias issues, lack of generalizable data, and difficulties that may be experienced by participants in expressing themselves (Creswell, 2007). Sample selection and size may also limit the proposed study owing to the fact that it will not be representative of other areas under the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball apart from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) located throughout the south east region of the United States. In this sense, leadership strategies and practices based on participants selected from the PBC alone may not be generalizable to other coaches in other geographical areas. Other limitations include time and resource constraints that may present during data collection phase.

Delimitations

The proposed study is multidisciplinary drawing widely on various leadership theories and practices with a specific focus on servant leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. It will be delimited to comparing nine leadership styles – autocratic, transactional, transformational, situational, ethical, inspirational, charismatic, democratic, and coaching – with the servant leadership style to identify leadership elements that could be used to achieve peak performance among individual student-athletes and basketball teams. This implies that other leadership styles will be excluded. Additionally, participation in the study will be delimited to females coaching Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams located in the Peach Belt Conference. Participants who meet all the other qualifications but are not from the Peach Belt Conference will be excluded from the study.

Summary

Leadership variedly affects each sphere of life underlying the success or failure experienced in goal-oriented task execution. It is not only the case with organizational performance such as military, spiritual, etc., but also the performance of student-athletes on Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The leadership of the basketball coaches plays significant roles as teachers, mentors, ethical practitioners, role models, and leaders exemplified in different leadership forms. Whereas that remains true of a leader, the underlying leadership influence directly impacts on success or failure of a group, in this case the performance of a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.

The critical role played by the leader is often transparent on team members, strongly correlating with team performance. Leadership skills underlying the team leader’s decision-making has direct implications on team building and relationships development, team discipline, approaches used to assign roles and responsibilities to each team member, and the creation of a motivating environment for team members. It is crucial for the team leader to develop appropriate leadership coaching skills to address the dynamic needs of athletes under one’s leadership. To attain that goal, one needs to draw on different leadership theories developed over time by conducting a synthesis of existing leadership theories relevant to the current study with a focus on servant leadership style. The servant leadership style is proposed as the best leadership style for Women’s NCAA Division II College basketball teams to attain peak performance, one of the most popular sports in the world of sports today. The background leading to the success stories in leadership began with Dr. James Naismith, who was the creator of the original game and rules.

Dr. James Naismith worked in different capacities at different physical training facilities while conducting athletic contests in sports, such as volleyball, fencing, field hockey, and basketball, with others including Berenson contributing significantly to the development of the game, apparently appealing to different admirers (“Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame”, n.d.). That culminated in the successful development of the game and women’s basic rights in sports propelling the game further. The universal declaration of human rights, requiring that women be awarded equal opportunity in the realms of the Title IX that requires women to “be provided an equitable opportunity to participate in sport; female athletes receive athletic scholarships proportional to participation; and that female athletes receive equal treatment of equipment and supplies, scheduling of games and practice times, coaching, practice and competitive facilities, access to tutoring, publicity and promotions, and recruitment of student-athletes” (“The National Collegiate Athletic Association”, n.d.). Thus, the battle for gender equity had been launched as is evident among Women’s NCAA Division II College basketball coaches, with significant success. While the battle for gender equity had been won, the battle for successful performance of Women’s NCAA Division II College basketball teams remains an issue to address.

The proposed study will employ a phenomenological qualitative approach to determine the leadership style for different coaches that are consistent with the six characteristics of the servant leadership style. Four NCAA Division II head basketball coaches with varied ethnicities, qualifications, training, education, and gender will take part in the study.

The rationale is to develop a study that identifies a leadership style to adopt to facilitate ongoing progress in the field of Women’s NCAA II college basketball. That could translate to best performing athletes and coaches toward the attainment of peak performance for the athlete and the coach, not mentioning that the study will also serve as a criterion for judgment when selecting leaders for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Quality coaching with special emphasis on the servant leadership style optimizes coaching and leadership skills to provide athletes with competitive training, promotes good sportsmanship, and motivation for the trainee, whereas positively impacting further on the educational development and career of the student-athlete with quality core principles and values.

The study design reviews described leadership practices in the context of their alignment with the six characteristics of servant leadership defined in the model by Dr. Jim Laub. The four Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches will complete a self-assessment form using Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment by analyzing what leadership approach is most effective in terms of their own light or perceptions, behaviors, and styles used to lead others. Upon completion of the self-assessments the researcher will ask the coaches a series of semi-structured interview questions about why they chose their ratings and what they think they mean. The semi-structured interview guide will constitute the primary approach for documenting data. Data compiled from semi-structured interviews may reveal reasons for a shift toward various models of leadership in sport settings. Purposive sampling technique will ensure that all participants sampled for the study will have adequate knowledge on the phenomenon of interest.

Among the leadership styles to evaluate include servant leadership with key defining elements including “servant leadership defined by a dedication in offering services to others, is characterized by listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21).

That being a summary of the current layout of the study, assumptions include definitions of a leadership style drawing directly from the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, with the working definitions being multidisciplinary depending on the area targeted for discussion and context of application. The study suffers from limitations, which include applying the study findings to the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team leadership with the option of generalizing the findings at the user’s discretion.

In Chapter one, the researcher introduces the intent of the study and includes the background, the statement of the problem, and the purpose of this study. The researcher also addresses the significance, nature, data collection, research questions, theoretical framework, definitions, assumptions, scope, limitations, and delimitations of this study.

In Chapter two, the researcher explores past and present research and literature on defining a successful coach, systems to train coaches, models of leadership in sports, gender differences in coaching styles, and women leadership. Chapter two also includes a review of literature on historical and current gaps found in leadership literature, along with a description of servant leadership, a comparative study of leadership styles, and Dr. Jim Laub’s six characteristics that make up servant leadership. Little research exists about various leadership styles that are applicable to sports settings. This research project may add to the body of knowledge regarding the role that leadership has influenced individual student-athlete and team peak performance.

Literature Review

Introduction

During the 1990s researchers have witnessed an unparalleled explosion of interest in the practice of servant leadership, but without linking the research to leadership in sports. To draw and align the servant leadership style with the leadership in sports with the aim to improve performance in sports, the current study draws on sources including peer-reviewed articles, and several hundreds of sources provided for in the documentation. That includes the historical context of servant leadership and gender in sports by Anderson and Gill (1983) who have researched on gender in sports, Barnett, Smoll, and Smith (1992), among other authors, based on the working context of the definition of a successful coach. Systems used to train coaches, with underlying elements of leadership motivation, that drive players to achieve peak performance in sports inform the study (MacLean & Chelladurai, 1995; Williams, 1983; (Williams & Miller, 1983; Mannie, 2005).

The attributes of the servant leadership style are crucial for team leadership success. The aim is to identify various leadership styles, among several other leadership styles that have been applied in formal organizations that could serve as the learning point and analogous to the successful performance of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The study draws on leadership systems used to train coaches as discussed by Williams and Miller (1983) and Mannie (2005) among other authors recognize the communication component as an essential tool for leadership training, and the overall implications on the performance of a leadership style in pursuing best results. Here, the study focuses on gender differences on leadership and instructional delivery by drawing on the research, among others, Fasting and Pfister (2000), who discuss on cross gender leadership behaviors. Special focus is given to the gap in the literature on women in leadership as established based on the perspective of the social roles of women and men.

A link between leadership in sports for the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams provides the basis to study the seven leadership characteristics, which include clarity motivation, reflections, persuasion, conceptualization, awareness, context, and commitment which when aligned with the servant leadership style based on Dr. Jim Laub’s six characteristics of the servant leadership, can be paralleled with the best leadership for the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The literature is rich in content on the best leadership style that can be adopted and merged into the leadership for the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams to achieve peak performance. The literature on servant leadership in sports from a historical perspective, models of servant leadership style, a comparative study of literature on leadership styles, which includes the transactional, transformational, inspirational, situational, and charismatic leadership models with the servant leadership style are discussed to reinforce the position that the servant leadership style is the best for the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The literature is blended with Dr. Laub’s six servant leadership characteristics to crystallize its fitness in sports.

Documentation

Sources considered in this review include, books, peer-reviewed scholarly journals, and professional publications in the fields of coaching sports and leadership. To conduct a literature review, a search strategy included accessing a number of databases and sources through the University of Phoenix Library Online search engines, such as ProQuest, Gale Power Search, and EBSCOhost. Search terms used included: coaching leadership relating leadership approaches and underlying theories, gender, women in leadership and analogy to Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

Ongoing searches produced references to scholarly books, peer-reviewed articles, and a large numbers of peer-reviewed journal articles were examined. These research databases offered a vast amount of literature pertaining to coaching leadership, leadership theories, and strategies for coaching sports, how one may enhance coaching abilities, how different gender coaches perceive leadership practices, and models of leadership coaches use to excel in the field of sports. Literature on the servant leadership style, other leadership styles considered in the study, implications on organizational performance, when compared with the servant leadership’s six characteristics as the yardstick to evaluate effectiveness in organizational performance will be conducted by and based on historical research to current materials on servant leadership and other leadership styles and the implications in sports with special emphasis on the coaching leadership for the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

From the historical perspective, authors including Case (1984), Chelladurai and Saleh (1980), Pratt and Eitzen (1989), Wren (1995), Anderson and Gill (1983) discuss gender in sports, Barnett, Smoll, and Smith (1992) on coaching leadership and motivational implications on team performance, and Bass (1985) correlates leadership to performance among others. Bass (1990) links theory to practice and implications on leadership, while Bird (1977) focuses on leadership and team attributes. Authors of modern perspectives of leadership include Heydarinejad and Adman (2010), Avolio and Yammarino (2008), Armstrong (2001), Avolio and Yammarino (2008) on transformational leadership in sports, Bardes, Mayer, and Piccolo (2008), Banutu-Gomez (2004), Andrew (2001), Annette, Joseph, and Clifford (2010) on practical implications of servant leadership in organizations, Bell and Habel (2009), Brake (2010) focuses on strategic approach to leadership by coaches, Blumenthal (2005) links leadership theory to practice, Boiche, and Sarrazin (2009) examines reasons for dropouts from teams that impede team performance.

Bowman (2000) compares different leadership styles, among others have researched and written widely on leadership and leadership styles across different disciplines, developing a common consensus that leadership has been and is regarded as playing the most significant role underlying the success or failure toward the attainment of success in any discipline. Widely read, research has shown that leadership in different forms has a strong implication on the performance of any organization. Baric and Bucik (2009) provides a modern view of leadership motivation. In theory, Barrow (1977) defines leadership in relation to the behavioral process that influences the attainment goals and objectives with a strong correlation to the performance of an institution or organization, when they assert that leadership is “the behavioral process of influencing individuals and groups toward set goals” p.32. That is widely accepted as a leadership approach for organizations. A knowledge gap appears as to the best leadership style for sports coaching leadership, among the leadership styles used on formal organizations, which comes in different forms.

Avolio and Yammarino (2008), among other authors agree with the fact that leadership comes in a variety of forms that strategically aim to provide guiding roles defined by the inherent characteristics of the leadership style and the leader (Wren, 1995). These leadership styles ranging from autocratic, servant, transactional, transformational, situational, ethical, inspirational democratic, charismatic, and coaching leadership styles, in theory and practice have been proven to create different implications and outcomes on those who are led toward the attainment of specific performance objectives and goals (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Tichy & Devanna, 1986; Locke, 1991; Shashkin, 1986). It is crucial to note that these leadership styles have different leadership implications for different leadership situations and environments. That has been widely accepted to be the case with leadership styles and implications not only on organizational performance, but the performance of individuals in such organizations (Fiedler & Garcia, 1987). That is also the case in sports.

Sports require that the coach or leader of the organization provide a kind of leadership based on a leadership style to ensure success and optimal performance of individuals among the team. A case in point is Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the focus of this study’s leadership style. Not much has been researched into the leadership provided by team leaders or coaches for athletic teams and more specifically, the leadership style with its underlying characteristics to achieve peak performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. This study endeavors to study the literature from different sources on leadership styles, with a focus on servant leadership to identify the most appropriate or best leadership style that provides coaches with abilities to attain optimal or peak performance for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

It is critical to comment that while success or failure has been attributed to the skills of the leader and the leadership style for organizational performance, it is with equal enthusiasm that a parallel be drawn from organizational leadership style and one’s impact on the performance of such organizations on the performance of coaching leadership in sports. Ideally that alludes to the fact that organizational leadership principles and theories are equally applicable in providing leadership when coaching sports. One could affirm that it is the question of leadership skills transferred across disciplines. A parallel, as mentioned above can be drawn between organizational leadership and coaching leadership with the leadership principles and underling theories equally applicable in both scenarios with similar implications on performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Thus, one cannot overemphasize that leadership and the leadership styles are crucial components in the success or failure of the performance of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, compelling the need to study leadership styles and the implications on team performance or attainment of goals, drawing a parallel between organizational performance and sports performance with specific emphasis on a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.

This study will draw on the use of various sources of literature by different authors who have conducted qualitative and quantitative research on leadership in different organizations with a special emphasis on the servant leadership style. The study will then draw a parallel of the leadership styles applied in different organizations to the coaching leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. A number of articles on different forms of leadership and implications on organizational performance with special reference to servant leadership and implications on sports leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams to achieve peak performance as summarized in table 1 next page.

Table 1.
Sources and Items to Investigate Leadership styles Authenticity, Providing leadership, Valuing people, Developing people, Building community, Providing leadership, Sharing leadership Sources for Leadership Theories and Practice
Journals Peer reviewed articles Popular articles Text books Total Recency %
Leadership (Concept, theories, and practical applications) in Organizations 14 2 2 5 21 85
Servant Leadership 12 3 1 1 15 87
Autocratic 4 1 5 90
Situational 3 3 90
Transformational 5 5 60
Ethical 6 6 60
Inspirational 1 1 50
Peak Performance 4 4 80
Democratic 3 3 50
Charismatic 3 2 5 90
Coaching/Sports Leadership 17 2 19 90
Women Leadership 4 4 90
Students Perceptions 3 3 90
Sports and Psychology 9 9 86
Leadership and Gender 3 1 4 90
Career Development 1 1 90

Summary

Receny >85%, founding theorists-, Empirical research studies-, Peer reviewed articles-10, books-7, Gap = Yes

Defining a Successful Coach

When evaluating the makeup of a successful coach, the first priority is to establish parameters to understand how a coach is measured for definition. Success in sports is when peak performance is achieved among athletic teams and is the underlying component that qualifies an athletic coach to be regarded as an effective leader when the coach has created a well-functioning team. On the collegiate level successful coaches are defined by win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rate. The science and art of coaching is the ability to teach and motivate others with a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the game. Players are motivated when leadership emphasizes the attainment of peak performance (MacLean & Chelladurai, 1995). The science of coaching is the ability to teach skills, techniques, game systems, and strategies (MacLean & Chelladurai, 1995). In-depth skills, knowledge, sports strategies, tactics, appropriate planning, clear comprehension of game rules and individual strengths and weaknesses underlie a successful coach.

The basis for creating a successful coach in this case is the servant leadership style adopted by the coach with the underlying six characteristics, which provides the basis for arguing that a specific leader is successful. Researchers scantly argue and link a successful coach with the performance success. Many authors make observations when success has been achieved and attribute that to the coach. Possibilities flourish around other variables that intervene toward team success, implying the need to get to the bottom of what really defines a successful coach. Different researchers provide different definitions of success. Leland (1988) considers a successful coach as one who prepares team members to play with the aim of achieving success in different levels of sporting activities. A gap, which Leland (1988) did not address, included the failure to identify how a team becomes ready to play at other higher levels without prior preparations to make the team a well-functioning unit that grow as a team toward perfection. The key points are preparedness, and a well-functioning team. Athletic coaches must understand complex team dynamics, and the forces that work inside teams including team conflicts and how to solve such problems and the requirements of an effective team.

At the level of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, a successful coach has competent knowledge of basketball, is passionate about the game and the team members, and clearly understands what team members need to perform effectively (Leland, 1988). That is achieved by “paying attention to the player’s emotions, strengths, and weaknesses are the responsibility of a good coach” (Deci & Ryan, 1985). LeUnes and Nation (2002) described the role of a successful coach as being concerned with athletes’ overall welfare through life lessons without stimulating negative emotions in the players. The athletic coach has to have strong control of one’s emotions, be able to communicate clearly with others parents and young athletes, establishing an atmosphere that fosters trust, understanding of what winning requires, and the flexibility to learn effective ways to communicate and work through adverse situations. Tony Dungy defines emotional intelligence as the collection of four types of skills: perception and expression emotions, understanding of emotions, usage of emotions, and managing of emotions (Leland, 1988). The coach establishes and attempts to achieve defined performance goals as argued by (MacLean & Chelladurai, 1995).

A combination of life experience and in-depth knowledge combined enables the coach to define what winning and performing to success means. According to MacLean and Chelladurai (1995), the skills acquired and developed with time and experience can be taught to team members with a level of skill, which can be emulated by team members who learn from the servant leader. While this information defines a successful coach, situations that arise when at competition require the coach to be a patient person who avoids yelling and other behavior that may have negative implications on the attitude of team members with gradual implications on one’s performance. Deci and Ryan, (1985) and LeUnes and Nation (2002) view these as tactics, skills, techniques, personal responsibilities, others’ welfare, and adequate planning to advance the skills of athletes and define a successful coach.

Systems to Train Coaches

In sports, the role of the athletic leader has been under-examined and specifically, how training models relate to a coach’s development and role has never been studied. Williams and Miller (1983) and Mannie (2005), state that several of today’s athletic coaches do not recognize how to be an effective leader because they were not awarded the position based on one’s leadership skills, but assigned these titles based on personal powers to accomplishment success in sports. Studies conducted by Williams (1983) coincide with the studies by Laios, Theodorakis, and Gargalianos (2003), which affirm that winning gives coaches’ power or social credibility. Many coaches were former players who advance in the profession without perfecting a craft. Studies by Fitzgerald, Sagaria, and Nelson (1994) established that 94.5% of athletic directors were titled on their accomplishments, a study widely agreed by Armstrong (1993) while promotions for assistants were based on winning teams.

The need to train coaches has received little support and attention in basketball with available models receiving inadequate attention. To be an effective coach one must realize without a standard against which to practice or measure one’s abilities the lack of creditability or validity one may have is null and void. The gap shown here is the need to train coaches who in turn train team members who significantly contribute to the successful performance of a team (Williams & Miller, 1983; Mannie, 2005). Faulty criteria used to award leadership to coaches lack underlying qualities. Many of the coaches assigned leadership positions were associated with the level of success in performance of team members without due regard of the leadership traits or leadership style the coach could adopt and the ultimate impact the leadership style could have on the performance of team members. Williams (1983) and Laios, Theodorakis, and Gargalianos (2003) conducted studies that showed the significance of winning in sports leading to the coach gaining a status both in society and within the team. The coach who is the servant leader in that case views success as tool for social creditability. Many of the coaches and team members regard success from the coach’s abilities without much regard on the underlying leadership style.

Coaches’ training models can be based on communication as a heuristic value with the instructional communication component affected through courses, clinics, camps, books, playing experience, and emulating and learning from elite coaches and athletes (Carter & Bloom, 2009). Other learning and training approaches include making observations, which impact positively on experience, and internal and external reflections (Werthner & Trudel, 2006). The training and learning elements for coaches have been shown by Anderson and Gill (1983) to be attained through formal educational preparation on the university level with other coaches developing skills through experience. Training and experience through high school to university levels play significant roles in coaching leadership for basketball teams for leaders to tactically equip teams to successful performance (Cregan, Bloom, & Reid, 2007). That enables coaches who have acquired knowledge and skill of various leadership styles to inculcate the essential components likely to stimulate and motivate team members to exert efforts to achieve the synergy required to attain ones fullest potential to succeed and achieve peak performance in sports (Schinke, Bloom, & Sahnela, 1995).

Models of Leadership in Sports

Even though general leadership theories have been conceptualized since the beginning of the twentieth century as established by Bass (1990) and other authors, leadership in sports has only been studied within the last 30 years, reinforcing the need to study current leadership trends in sports (Danielson, Zelhart, & Drake, 1975; Turman, 2003).

From a historical point of view, Conner (1998) views a leader as an agent of change, agreeing with modern leadership theories and widely accepted notion that the leadership style a leader adopts with the underlying characteristics of the leader are compelling factors for the success or failure of an organization toward the attainment of specific goals and objectives across the gender divide (Brake, 2010; Blumenthal, 2005). That is in line with the thinking adopted by Dubin (1965), who argues that organizational effectiveness and the leadership style are complimentary. Critically, effectiveness draws on trust the leadership develops with team members, teamwork, good working relationships, open mindedness, setting and pursuing goals as a team with encouragement from leadership, good communication between coach and team members. According to Dubin (1965), the leadership style adopted by the coach or leader should have strong implications on the performance of the team and each individual on the team. Hicks and McCracken (2010), affirm that leaders serve the purpose of articulating and manipulating systems by serving as teachers, mentors, ethical practitioners, and role models toward the success of an organization.

The fundamental components in a leader are to inculcate trust, respect, teamwork, entrusting relationships between team members and the leader, show strong accountability and take leadership roles and responsibilities toward the attainment of success in sports, and uphold high ethical standards in leadership in sports. Dubin (1965) radically departs on the implications of the leadership style used to run organizations showing significant differences in sports (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989). While the prevailing characteristics among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams and individual team members in question have not been defined to allow for such a conclusion, the assumptions inferred by Dubin (1965) could not be taken as blanket cover for the leadership of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Dubin (1965) communicates supporting research, which infers that organizational members, in this case the members of the basketball team could attain success, which could be linked to effective and supportive leadership.

Dubin (1965) does not provide a detailed study of the leadership skills and traits successful leaders should be characterized with. One could borrow from the arguments and research conducted by Stogdill (1974) who identified a number of traits and skills a leader should be characterized with to be successful. That could lead to the conclusion that the leadership style and the traits and skills of the leader are complimentary. One could critically, argue that whether an excellent leadership style has been identified to address, with effectiveness, the leadership of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, if the leader has not inculcated specific skills and traits specific to the sports discipline, the leader, may risk a chance in providing successful coaching leadership, based on the leadership style identified. Thus, it is crucial to argue that the leadership style adapted by the coach and the characteristics skills of the coaching leader provide an enabling environment for peak performance of a sports team, as could be applied to a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. Theories underlying different leadership styles and the leadership traits and skills will be discussed later in another section.

Whereas the success or failure in the performance of a team in the sports world is always strongly attributed to the skills and abilities attributed from each team’s coach embedded in the leadership style characterizing the coaches’ leadership style. Lee and Chuang (2009), share one of the proponents attributing to successful leadership practices depends entirely on the collaborative effort of the team leader. Collaboration toward the attainment of organizational performance is a leadership tool to enhance individual and organizational interactions is demonstrated, as one could deduce in leadership variables that include honesty and integrity, establishment of good relationships, good organizational and individual interactions, trustworthiness, integrity, and good communication skills, and conflict resolution strategies that address organizational development and stability.

A fact Stogdill (1957) strongly regarded as fundamental to the success of a team. It is with equal passion that studies conducted by Lee and Chuang (2009) and Stogdill (1957) can be applied to coaching leadership among basketball teams with special reference to a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. That could be summed in the famous words of John Wooden who says that, “success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming” (Wooden, 1997 p.174). The objective is to attain peak performance for each team member and ultimately the team, success that is always attributed to the coaching leadership provided by the coach. Proceeding there is a need to examine different kinds of leadership styles and the contribution toward the performance of the entire team.

Gender Difference in Coaching Styles

Gender is a very important issue in the current society. Fasting and Pfister (2000) argue that one of the subjects that has not been focused on is the role of gender dissimilarities and instruction in cross-gender state of affairs that is, male trainer for female athletes. This relates to leadership behaviors and team performance (Fasting & Pfister, 2000; Cortini, 2009; Howell, 2011; Smisek, 1996). Coaching gender plays an important role not only in mere technical terms of coaching but also in psychological aspects, supporting athletes on different levels of development. Coaches influence athletes’ self-esteem (Barnett, Smoll, & Smith, 1992), skill learning (Chelladurai, 1984), mental development (Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett, 2002), sport performance satisfaction (Horn, 2002), as well as performance outcomes (Horne & Carron, 1985, Schliesman, 1987). Gender plays a role in terms of coaching behaviors and gender preference, in practical terms, when athletes, administrators, and sport societies think about selecting a coach.

Coach behavior has a deep influence on athletes’ wellbeing, both in individual and team sports (Barnett, Smoll, & Smith, 1992). When coaches convey a genuine caring for an athlete’s wellbeing, in turn, it may be a key to sustain motivation, which plays a fundamental role in avoiding dropout, especially in young athletes (Boiche & Sarrazin, 2009). In the works of Weinberg and Gould (2003) share that male instructors offered more instruction that is scientific and are unsupportive than female instructors. Females favor more self-governing training approaches and a participatory instructing performance that permits them to assist make decisions while males are likely to favor teaching and informative behaviors and a tyrannical training approach (Weinberg & Gould, 2003). Chelladurai and Arnott (1985) discover the same that the influence of gender on coaching behavior preference, is that female athletes prefer a more participative coaching style, while male athletes favor a more autocratic style.

Male coaches must coach the athlete and not the gender in the context of the skills, knowledge of the game, mental abilities, and fitness (Smisek, 1996). Coaching consciousness is needed for female athlete’s feelings and relationships. To assist female athletes in one’s educational journey on and off the court, male coaches may need to identify the inherent challenges in communicating with and understanding what motivates female athletes (Anderson & Gill, 1983). Male coaches need to recognize the challenges that female athletes may encounter relating to each other as social competition develops as girls strive for popularity during adolescent adult transition from girls to women (Anderson & Gill, 1983). Coaches may want to focus on team chemistry to avoid this type of hierarchical system, which may place emphasis on the team as relationships mean everything to adolescents, especially girls because of the significant internal struggles they have with self-esteem (Smisek, 1996).

Howell (2011) suggests that profanity in coaching situations should decrease a leader’s perceived effectiveness, especially when conveyed from a male teacher to a female athlete. Blasphemy may reduce general training efficiency when it is used to highlight disapproval. Coaches should be mainly watchful on the use of language when analyzing the performance of players (Howell, 2011). As per the words of Chelladurai (1984), in case a trainer acclimatizes his or her performance to comply with the athletes’ favored actions, the athlete may perhaps be voluntarily disposed to reimburse the instructor through endeavor and enhanced performance. Additional research is needed to investigate the leadership styles, personalities, behaviors, and other related variables in an attempt to better understand and define leadership according to gender.

The coach should be more interested in ensuring individual performance items such as satisfactions, skills level, and performance goals are attained (Chelladurai, 1984). The coach irrespective of gender should not allow gender bias to intrude on training instructions or among team members. They should ensure team members get satisfied with the training one receives, provides adequate and appropriate instructions, use teaching and instructional techniques that satisfy team members, recognize team members to one’s satisfactions, cultivate the atmosphere of friendliness, show loyalty toward team members, work in leading the team toward nurturing one’s full potential to achieve performance goals (Fasting & Pfister, 2000; Anderson & Gill, 1983). That applies to male and female coaches.

The differences in gender and one’s implications on leadership for those who train and the participants have shown significant differences that require, despite the above recommendations how to handle situations, to be examined. It is possible that the understanding creates a better environment for team members in basketball to develop an attitude that promotes understanding and collective responsibility. Theory has shown gender differences to have significant implications on the behavior of females and males where males have inclinations toward mentoring compared with females (Fasting & Pfister, 2000). Male coaches must coach the athlete and not the gender in the context of skills, knowledge of the game, mental abilities, and fitness (Smisek, 1996). Research has shown females develop a strong network, which is a critical component of coaches who represent servant leadership characteristics.

Research has revealed other implications of gender on coaches. Boiche and Sarrazin (2009), Weinberg and Gould (2003), Chelladurai and Arnott (1985), argue that male coaches have more of a rapport naturally with others whereas female coaches have the connection to one’s capabilities and making observations. Males in theory view teamwork from the winning perspective whereas women seek equal involvement in teamwork (Smisek, 1996).

Women Leadership

Eagly and Karau (2001) have argued in favor of the fact that a knowledge gap exists on the behavior of men and women when in leadership positions. Eagly and Karau (2001) further argue that leadership is consequential, thus the leadership style as argued here seems to emphasize that “issues of style with respect to women can unfortunately often be more important than issues of substance” (Thrall, 1996 p. 4). Thus, the leadership style, concluding from this author, has implications on the ultimate performance of the leader and one’s gender and the ultimate outcome in the performance of the team under a leader’s direction. Conclusions cannot be taken as concrete evidence unless widely researched on. That shows a knowledge gap and a rush to conclude in the line of the capabilities of women as leaders taking leadership roles. Controversy over the effectiveness as team leaders has prevailed whereas others, including social scientist agreeing that the leadership styles for men and women seem to vary significantly. Researchers and social scientist do not exclusively agree to the fact and contend that little or no differences are found in either leadership styles (Book, 2000; Helgesen, 1990; Rosener, 1995; Powell, 1990).

Researchers who agree on gender as a force that defines the leadership provided by women or men in one’s effectiveness look at it from the perspective of social roles women and men engage in. Eagly et al., (2000) is one of the writers who agree that roles conferred on women in the social context based on the agentic characteristics of the gender divide. Eagly et al., (2000) affirms that “agentic characteristics, which are ascribed more strongly to men than women, describe primarily an assertive, controlling, and confident tendency” p. 4, and provides an example including the “aggressive, ambitious, dominant, forceful, independent, daring, self-confident, and competitive” (Eagly et al., 2000) nature of either gender by relating these to the work place, by sharing the statement that “in employment settings, agentic behaviors may include speaking assertively, competing for attention, influencing others, initiating activity directed to assigned tasks, and making problem-focused suggestions” (Eagly et al., 2000).

One can immediately conclude assertively that the servant leadership style seems to form a void in these kinds of assumptions. Literature seems to point in the direction that this leadership style is pointing to men without, though, showing the traits of a servant leader. Despite that, women leadership goes on to look and relate further with the social context of the relation women have with others. These communal characteristics attributed to women include, “concern with the welfare of other people for example, affectionate, helpful, kind, sympathetic, interpersonally sensitive, nurturing, and gentle” (Eagly et al., 2000). The same author draws a parallel between these findings and the social settings by focusing on communal behaviors, which “may include speaking tentatively, not drawing attention to oneself, accepting others” (Eagly et al., 2000), and “direction, supporting and soothing others, and contributing to the solution of relational and interpersonal problems” (Eagly et al., 2000). It becomes possible to affirm that the leadership style appropriately addressing this scenario as the servant leadership.

The latter statement seems to qualify the female gender as appropriate for the servant leadership style in the context of a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. A critical evaluation of the leadership process seems to compel one to the conclusion that the servant leadership style cannot be discriminately applied as the most appropriate leadership style since, the authors the occupancy role of the leadership position to be gender constrained. That also seems to be in line with the arguments and position taken by (Kanter, 1977). Kanter (1977) argues that men and women occupying similar leadership positions behave differently due to gender influences. Here, one may conclude in the same note that gender has a strong influence in the type of leadership and one’s expectations. Assumptions may further be supported by Gutek and Morasch (1982), who view gender bias as exerting influence on the kind of leadership style and approach used to lead females.

Writing the Review

The study draws on the servant leadership style as the most appropriate leadership model for coaches in providing leadership toward achieving peak performance in sports. The history of women’s participation in sports especially in basketball is based on the rules created by Dr. James Naismith, a major contribution to the beginning of women’s basketball in 1891 (“Women’s Basketball Online: Women’s Basketball Timeline”, n.d.). By 1972, the current involvement of women in sports had gained significant success leading to the modern participation of women in sports. No evidence shows that coaches of basketball teams had a specific leadership style to adopt and what were the implications on the performance of women on basketball teams. That led to the current trend in questioning the effectiveness and implications of different leadership styles on organizational performance with special emphasis on the servant leadership style as can be applied for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

Greenleaf (1977), Laub (1999), and Dr. Jim Laub’s (1999) contributed significantly into previous concepts and principles that make up six servant leadership characteristics by exploring the implications on organizational leadership and performance. Spears (1998) linked past approaches to leadership in sports to the current leadership to servant leadership style by fundamentally focusing on autocratic leadership. Spears (1998) identified gaps in Greenleaf’s (1977) and focused on researching and developing Greenleaf’s (1977) studies by coining ten new key elements of servant leadership: “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21). These findings were taken a step further by modern authors including Bardes, Mayer, and Piccolo (2008), and Hannay (2009) who realized the interconnection between team motivation and the servant leadership style as discussed by (Vinod & Sudhakar, 2011; Hatamleh, Abu Al-Ruz, & Hindawi, 2009). These authors, among others, extensively studied servant leadership and coupled coaching leadership as a modern trend. Each of the characteristics of servant leadership is studied below from a historical perspective, current trends, and gaps in knowledge with implications on organizational performance and analogous to coaching leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

Historical, Current, and Gaps

Each of the six characteristics of the servant leadership style constituting the leadership variables discussed in the following sections demonstrate historical and current findings showing the gap between historical authors and current authors, and the gaps as applicable in the current organizational leadership environment analogous to coaching leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

Model of the Servant Leadership Style

Questions linger on the best leadership style athletic coaches may use to attain peak performance in sports with special emphasis on the performance of women among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Servant leadership is one new model that has proved successful in a growing number of organizations (Mark Neill, Karen S. Hayward, & Teri Peterson, 2007). In theory, servant leadership is defined as a “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p.20). Dr. Jim Laub (1999) provided his own definition of servant leadership as, “an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader” (“The Organizational Leadership Assessment Group”, 1998-2013). Greenleaf (1977) explains that a leader’s first priority is to serve others and invest in the growth of each individual in the organization. The servant-leader is respectful, listens intently, and finds the good in everyone to understand better one’s individual uniqueness (Greenleaf, 1977).

These definitions closely emphasize on the wellbeing of the individual, Spears (2009) and Greenleaf (1977) seem to focus more on the behavior of an individual with a shared goal. When goals are clearly set and prioritized, hypothetically, success toward the attainment of that goal is guaranteed. Thus, a leadership model that incorporates that leadership attribute is crucial in sports. The definition marked by Spears (2009) deviates from emphasizing on a single individual to focus on both the individual and others who may constitute a group. That definition always seems to fit into the context of the leadership styles appropriate to lead Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Team members and individuals are bound to benefit from servant leadership. Typically, Dr. Jim Laub (1999) focuses more on others and not on an individual, leading to the conclusion that it is applicable to team members on a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. This implies that the coach should identify the best approach to use to lead others by focusing on sensitive individual needs first as a critical element, an attribute defining servant leadership style, before the team is focused on and gradually the individual team leader.

While leadership comes in different forms with different characteristics, each leadership style is appropriate for a specific environment based on the inherent characteristics of the leadership style. Servant leadership has its defining characteristics worth evaluating for unique appropriateness among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams aiming at optimizing the performance of team members to attain peak performance. That draws on the leadership provided by the team’s coach. Greenleaf (1977) and Spears (1998) seem to agree on the transformative force of servant leadership by emphasizing the role of the leader as putting deliberately the needs of others ahead of the leaders. Greenleaf (1977) argues further by asserting that servant leadership enables team members and the team to “grow healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, and more likely themselves to become servants” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 14). As mentioned elsewhere, one could conclude that it is a fragile kind of leadership where the leader acts the role of the servant and the servant seems to be the point of focus. Combining the arguments of Bum’s (1978) and Greenleaf (1977), one concludes otherwise. Servant leadership is a strong type of leadership that is transformative. It enables the coach or leader to inculcate the listening element in the team members, since listening is one of the strongest components a team leader or coach relies on when instructing team members.

Once the team leader has developed the natural urge to serve, Greenleaf’s (1977) perspective of the leadership process influences the leader where the “conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Greenleaf, 1970). That allows the leader to attain the leadership status and enables “individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p.20). Greenleaf’s (1977) views concur at this point with that of Spears (2009) on the development process of the team and individual team members. That calls for a detailed study of the characteristics of the servant leadership style and its effectiveness in a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.

In order to attain peak performance based on servant leadership, different literature and organizational leaders agree the leader invests time and energy in the development of the team and individual team members by capitalizing on the positive emotions and strengths of the team. It boils down to using team members as a resource. That is in agreement with Hackman and Wageman’s (2005) and coaching (2005) views on coaching when providing coaching leadership. In the context of the current study, coaching leadership defined by Hackman and Wageman (2005) communicate “direct interaction with a team intended to help members make coordinated and task-appropriate use of one’s collective resources in accomplishing the team’s goals” (p. 269) culminates in appropriate inculcation of the elements characterizing a servant leadership style for a coach in the field of coaching sports. Typically, that is in perspective among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. These elements include, “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21).

The question will remain how these elements are crucial in coaching leadership based on the principles of servant leadership in the sport of basketball. Thus, coaching could significantly contribute borrowing and embedding the principles of the servant leadership style, to an athletic coach in pursuing excellence and peak performance for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. One should bear in mind the goals of coaching as a leadership continuum to attain excellence and peak performance among a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. Witherspoon and White (1996) provide the general goals of coaching leadership to include “to build skills, enhance performance, or guide leaders toward the cultivation of organizational objectives” p.6. That reflects on servant leadership as the baseline for coaching leadership on a basketball team toward the pursuit of excellence and peak performance. To “build skills, enhance performance, or guide others toward the cultivation of organizational objectives,” in this case for the coach providing leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, team leadership draws on team dynamics as provided by the coach or leader.

To attain peak performance based on the definitions of servant leadership, the coach is characterized by a number of aspects that are defined as the seven “C’s” of coaching leadership. That implies that the coach should have certain specific characteristics to qualify as a servant leader, embedding the characteristics of the servant leader such as active listening skills to build and enhance performance on a basketball team. In general, the characteristics of the servant leadership style and the seven underlying principles of the coach remain interwoven toward the attainment of the objective.

Arguments by Anshel (2003) concur that a coach who executes the leadership task with effectiveness is the one “who elicits either successful performance outcomes or positive psychological responses on the part of her or his athletes” (Horn, 2002). Listening, clarity, empathy, healing, stewardship, commitment, community building, foresight, healing, and conceptualization form considerable assumptions that may define an effective coach, which are the key elements that define the servant leadership style. When leading a team, these are critical strengths of the servant leadership style that a coach may want to exemplify.

It is of fundamental worth to note that an effective coach plays significant roles, which include “leader, follower, teacher, role model, limit setter, psychologist/counselor and/or mentor” (Anshel, 2003). Based on the servant leadership style, the team leader, according to Anshel (2003) should identify the needs of each team member and be ready to address individual needs of each team member to optimize one’s performance through a team building process that draws on the principles of an effective coach.

Context is another team leadership component that needs to be addressed which is a key strength of an athletic coach. In the context of the coaching leadership drawing from the servant leadership style for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team, the coach requires to provide support to team members for the desired need within the context of the team in this case gender. The gender issues are strongly related to Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, since the coach leads a group of females. There are psychological and other issues related to gender and the performance of a team relative to gender.

That assumption follows an extensive research conducted by (Chelladurai, 1978) and (Anshel, 2003) on the models of an effective coach toward the attainment of an effective leadership in athletic teams with the aim of developing the team toward attaining peak performance. That was consistent with the quantified Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS) developed and used by Chelladurai and Saleh (1980). The Leadership Scale for Sport (LSS) consisted of five dimensions of leadership for a coach. Some of the elements in the scale varied radically from the servant leadership style by incorporating the autocratic and democratic leadership principles. In Chelladurai and Saleh’s (1980) findings, the five dimensions of coaching leadership included “leader behavior, training and instruction, positive feedback, social support, democratic and autocratic behavior” p. 20. Other leadership styles will be discussed and evaluated in other sections with a comparative analysis of strengths and weaknesses to provide the rationale for a specific type of leadership style to achieve peak performance.

When underling effective training of context team members may want to provide support for the “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p.20), commitment is one of the strengths that makes an effective coach, with the servant leadership style’s key strength providing the coach and the team members with reciprocating sense of commitment toward one another. Commitment is the context of a basketball team that illustrates reciprocating relationships and commitment toward each other to promote team success. The primary intent of the servant leader is to serve while providing an enabling environment and stimulating the “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009; Sosik & Dworakivsky, 1998). At this point, one becomes critical of the fact of quoting Spears’s (2009) definition of the servant leadership style. In answer to the dilemma, it is important to comment here that different authors seem to read from the same script, though differences and a knowledge gap occurs in the key terms used in the definitions and environment of working contexts of the definition.

Thus, the course of action with clearly stated objectives for the development of the team implies developing clear strategies to enable the coach to become effective in one’s leadership role. Coaching leadership may want to sway practices to intermittently draw on servant leadership styles to provide leadership toward the attainment of incremental growth, a parallel between growing “healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous” (Spears, 2009 p.20), and authors who have extensively researched on team development (Knapp 2008; Reeves & Ellison 2009).

Studies by Gould, Dieffenbach and Moffett (2002) point out that “the participating leaders are able to clarify objectives, set expectations for change, and organize how the coaching process will be conducted” p.23. This is demonstrated in the commitment to the growth of the team and the team members embedded in the commitment toward the team and individuals (Fifer, 2006). Basing coaching leadership on the servant leadership style, the coach draws a parallel by internalizing the servant leadership characteristics to clarify and provide team leadership by defining key performance and team development standards and the implications on team development and performance (Feger, Woleck, & Hickman, 2005).

A leader who is willing to serve can provide hope instead of despair and can be an example for those who want direction and purpose in their lives and who desire to accomplish and contribute (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008). The appropriateness of the servant leadership style for coaches in Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams underlines the need to draw assumptions on key defining elements including listening, awareness, stewardship among others and the consistency with the needs and expectations to ultimately achieve peak performance and provide the rationale for one to adopt a leadership style for coaching sports.

Six Characteristics of Servant Leadership in Organizational Leadership Assessment

James Laub (1999) formulated an operational definition of servant leadership from an agreed-upon list of characteristics of servant leadership upon realizing the need for a way to evaluate the level at which followers and leaders perceive the presence of servant leadership characteristics within their organizations. Extant literature demonstrates that Laub “studied servant leadership in an attempt to define specific characteristics of the servant leadership concept through a written, measurable instrument” (Stone, Russell & Patterson, 2004 p. 358). Laub’s (1999) definition acknowledged that:

Servant leadership is an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader. Servant leadership promotes the valuing and development of people, the building of community, the practice of authenticity, the providing of leadership for the good of those led, and the sharing of power and status for the common good of each individual, the total organization and those served by the organization (p. 83).

Laub then proceeded to develop the items for the evaluation/assessment tool that continues to be used by organizations on a wide-ranging scale to measure the perceptions of servant leadership without ever making mention of the term “servant” or “servant leadership” (Laub, 1999). The six characteristics of servant leadership contained in the assessment tool, known as Organizational Leadership Assessment, are explained below.

Displaying Authenticity

According to the literature, a servant leader must demonstrate ability to admit personal limitations and mistakes, remain open to being known to others, promote open communication and sharing of information, sustain accountability and responsibility to others, maintain a non-judgmental and open-minded attitude, encourage flexibility and willingness to compromise, and evaluate himself or herself before blaming others (Laub, 2000). Additionally, in authenticity, a servant leader must remain open to receiving criticism and challenge from others, demonstrate high integrity, trust and honesty when dealing with followers, and maintain high discipline and ethical standards (Stone et al., 2004).

Valuing People

A servant leader must not only believe in people and maintain a high view of people, but he or she must also demonstrate capacity to respect others, believe in the unlimited potential of each individual, accept people as they are, trust others, demonstrate concern regarding the needs of people, trust and show appreciation to others (Dennis & Bocarnea, 2005; Laub, 2000). Such a leader, according to Joseph and Winston (2005), must put others first before their own needs and demonstrate a listening, receptive and nonjudgmental orientation.

Developing People

A servant leaders must demonstrate the capacity for promoting the personal and professional growth of followers by providing opportunities for people to develop to their fullest potential, using his or her power and authority to benefit others, providing mentor relationships in order to help people grow professionally, viewing conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow, and creating an environment that encourages learning (Laub, 2000)

Building Community

A servant leader must demonstrate capacity to build community by leading by example in modeling appropriate behavior, modeling a balance of life and work and encouraging others to do so, developing followers through encouragement and affirmation, enhancing relationships through relating well to others and working to bring healing to hurting relationships, facilitating the building of community and emphasizing teamwork, as well as valuing the differences in people and allowing for individuality of style and expression (Laub, 2000).

Providing Leadership

To provide effective leadership, a servant leader must not only demonstrate vision of the future and use intuition and foresight to see the unforeseeable (Dennis & Bocarnea, 2005; Joseph & Winston, 2005), but he or she must also provide hope to others, encourage risk-taking behavior, exhibit courage, maintain healthy self-esteem, demonstrate knowledge and skills to get things done (Stone et al., 2004), maintain clarity on goals and capacity to point the direction, empower others by sharing power, and use persuasion to influence others instead of coercion (Laub, 2000).

Sharing Leadership

This characteristic essentially implies that a servant leader should demonstrate the capacity to share his or her leadership position by showing humbleness when dealing with others, leading from personal influence rather than positional authority, not expecting or demanding honor and awe for being in the leadership position, and also not seeking special status or other perks that may result from leadership position (Laub, 2000).

A Comparative Study of Leadership Styles

Servant Leadership Model vs. Autocratic Leadership Model

Having reviewed literature on a range of leadership styles, it is crucial to examine literature on the strengths and weaknesses in relation to coaching and ultimate performance of a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team. These eight leadership styles, as mentioned before include the servant, autocratic, transactional, transformational, situational, ethical, inspirational, and charismatic leadership styles. In the context of coaching leadership, each leadership style has direct and indirect implications on the leadership influence and definitive performance of the team in question. Thus, a comparative study provides the baseline argument relating a particular leadership style more suited for a Women’s NCAA Division II college team.

A detailed discussion of the servant leadership style has highlighted six characteristics applicable to the leadership and its implications on the coaching Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. These include stewardship, empathy, foresight, and conceptualization, persuasion, healing, and listening. In correlation to the autocratic leadership style, it is characterized by power as a tool to attainment of the ultimate objective, no inputs from team members but the team works on the directions and decisions of the coach, the coach identifies and dictates the appropriate methods to use to attain group development, and no decisions are made by the team but rather by the teams coach.

The autocratic leadership style had been embraced traditionally as the most appropriate leadership style, before other leadership styles were embraced. This autocratic style was based on concept that “power is not a form of leadership it is a form of control by intimidating employees” (De Cremer, 2007). It is a power centered leadership style. Analogous to athletic coaches, it orchestrates that the coach should use punishment and rewards to lead, and heavily rely on one’s position to direct team members to perform irrespective of individual concerns. That can well be summarized in the statement that “an autocratic leader zealously shields him from criticism about personal abilities and has an ego-driven need to control other people” (De Cremer, 2007). Once an athletic coach adopts the fear driven leadership style, the consequences may lead to resistance from team members and reduce performance (Jamison, 2005). Under the autocratic style, team members are likely to become fearful, resentful, tense, develop low morale, and lead to high absenteeism and staff turnover. One may stop short of recommending a leadership style for a basketball team in this case of a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team when the argument that it was a form “of control by intimidating employees” (De Cremer, 2007).

Before fully discarding and discrediting any leadership style, the argument could be that when there is urgency in decision-making, autocratic leadership style applies. That may dismiss the optimism of long-term benefits that could accrue from the leadership style. The servant leadership style contrasts sharply with the autocratic leadership style by providing a long term hope of development and decisions that have positive long-term affects on the members and team as a whole. That makes autocratic leadership unfit for long-term decision-making and growth of the team. That is further supported by the facts that show that it often causes employees to resist direction and under perform job responsibilities (De Cremer, 2007). Current trends are shifting to the employee needs to be empowered; a radical departure from the autocratic leadership style, where employees’ duty included obeying orders and executing assigned tasks without questions. When drawing on the principles of autocratic leadership, there is little or no hope of empowering team members toward the attainment of specified objectives by accepting one’s inputs into the team.

From the above literature, autocratic leadership is deficient of enabling the coach to provide the leadership that allows for personal growth, whereas not allowing external inputs and collaborative efforts for team development and growth, but focuses on the leader around whom team development revolves. Again servant leadership seems to provide the space required for interaction between the team’s coach and team members, while leading with the underlying rationale of wanting to serve. Leadership styles provide room for actively engaging team members in personal growth and development whereas providing the leadership needed for the development and growth of the team and the team members. That can also be viewed from the seven key elements of a successful coach, which can only be accommodated, based on the servant leadership style.

Servant Leadership Model vs. Transactional Leadership Model

In the process of conducting the literature review on the most appropriate leadership style to adopt for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team, another leadership style to correlate with the servant leadership style for a coach is the transactional leadership style. It has emerged from research studies that transactional leadership provides appropriate leadership in an environment where the coach or leader uses punishment and rewards to motivate members toward the performance of a specific task. In the quest for attaining peak performance, when a team member or the entire team performs exceptionally well, the coach rewards the members with the hope of motivating them toward improved performance (Pratt & Eitzen, 1989; Robbins, Houston & Dummer, 2010).

Motivations are external in nature and rarely focused on the intrinsic motivational factors. Extant literature shows that “transactional leadership involves the leader’s ability to focus on task responsibilities” (Bass, 1990 p. 29). This model defined by Max Weber in 1947 and again by Bernard M. Bass in 1981 seeks to motivate followers by appealing to one’s own self-interest (Bass, 1990; Garner & Laskin, 2000). There is a sharp distinction here between servant leadership and transactional leadership. While servant leadership, according to Greenleaf’s (1977) revolves around ten key elements, which include; “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (p.21), transactional leadership focuses on reward and punishment. “Transactional leadership uses a system of rewards and disciplinary measures to motivate employees: (Bass, 1990 p. 30).

Transactional leadership draws on the principles of motivating workers by the exchange of status and wages for the work effort of the employee (Wren, 1995). The coach’s leadership skills draw on directives and actions, which compel team members to accept the set goals and cultural orientation and team structure without making any inputs or contributions toward the leadership of the team. Thus, solutions to problems affecting the team evolve from within and not without. One could say that transactional coaching leadership draws solutions from within the team and does not accept external inputs. A clear indication that transactional leadership is based on management by exception and contingency rewarding approaches.

The goal of any team is to win and attain the best performance possible. According to Carron et al., (2002), Heuzé et al., (2006), Myers et al., (2004), and Watson et al., (2001), team cohesion has a strong influence on the performance of a team, and can be attained based on the leadership skills of a coach. Here, cohesion is defined as “a dynamic process that is reflected in part by the tendency of a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives and/or for the satisfaction of each members affective needs” (Carron & Brawley, 2000 p. 222). Thus, cohesion, effectiveness, and leadership are intertwined toward the pursuit and attainment of a specified objective.

These seven elements coupled with the key characteristics of a successful coach that include context, coachability, clarity, confidentiality, commitment, and action can be effectively attained based on the transactional and servant leadership style. The servant leadership style has been discussed extensively in relation to the seven key components that characterize a successful coach. In that discussion, the servant leadership style showed a significant agreement as a leadership style compatible with the key characteristics of a successful coach. As discussed above, transactional leadership reflects itself on reward and punishment with the underlying principle transactions model. Team development is based on transactions between the leader/coach and team members.

To achieve peak performance, the coach, borrowing from the transactional leadership model awards team members based on the level of success attained, as a motivating component. When compared with the servant leadership style, motivating team members whereas taking into consideration individual needs and input can achieve team development. The servant leadership style provides an upper hand in motivating team members toward the attainment of peak performance. That is in addition to the fact that some needs of team members might not be addressed before the team members get engaged in a sporting event, possibly disqualifying the transactional leadership style from the perspective of taking care of team members prior to sporting events. Servant leadership embraces the needs of team members even before a sporting event with the aim of identifying any problems or hindrance to optimizing one’s performance.

Servant Leadership Model vs. Transformational leadership Model

Armstrong (2001) laid out four main characteristics of transformational leadership among coaches of sports teams: (1) ethical behavior, (2) shared vision and shared goals, (3) performance improvement through charismatic leadership, and (4) leadership by example. In these characteristics, the coach’s ethical behavior and the team members’ draw on a leadership model that enables one to focus on perfecting the performance of team members to optimize one’s attitude and execution of tasks as argued that “good sportsmanship is defined as qualities of behavior, which are characterized by courtesy and genuine concern for others” (Trusty, 2000). Thus, the coach as a leader focused on the ethical behavior of the team members as here reinforced in this statement as “exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.” A coach and team members have to demonstrate a high degree of integrity and other standards formulated within the team toward pursuing honesty, fair treatment of others within the team, positive thinking, and taking responsibility for actions.

Transformational leadership provides the basis for the coach and the team members to develop mutual working relationships toward pursuing a shared goal through collective responsibility while working to achieve peak performance. Motivation, performance, and morale underpin the transformational leadership style. The coach in this case is the role model inspiring team members toward exerting individual efforts and energies by neliving in the team members and the team concept. Leadership enables team members to identify strengths and weaknesses as they transform the thoughts of others to believe in each other and how one contributes to the efficiency of the team. Once that is done, the coach is able to align each team member to specific team tasks specifically appropriating strengths and performance. According to Bass (1985) transformational leadership from the perspective of leaders’ influences subordinates, which encourages change and followership among individuals.

Available literature demonstrates that “transformational leadership creates valuable and positive change in the followers with an end goal of developing followers into leaders” (Bass, 1990 p. 30). Influenced by transformational leaders, subordinates become motivated to surpass original expectations (Yukl, 1989). The shared vision or goal is a key element to transformational leadership that allows for the coach to encourage or motivate team members toward the attainment of peak performance with the ultimate goal of achieving the shared goal and benefits associated with the coach. These could include a name, performance, and the ultimate financial benefits, which belong to the entire team and not the organization. It is mentioned in the literature that “transformational leadership involves the ability to motivate followers to go beyond expectations to reach higher goals” (Avolio & Yammarino, 2008 p. 136).

The transformational leadership style is characterized by charismatic leadership where the model requires that the leader actively influence the team members toward peak performance by encouraging them, by attending to individualized needs, a case similar to the servant leadership where the individual needs of the team members are carefully considered. Leading by the servant leadership model allows the coach or leader to display empathy and support for individual development and growth in each aspect that impacts factors such as team cohesion that have implications on the performance of the team. Transformational leadership models seem to be appropriate for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team as each of the team members are free to communicate with the coach with the challenges that may impede the progress and performance of the team. That is also the case with servant leadership, which allows the team members the opportunity to provide input toward the challenges facing the team. Here, the team leader and the player develops an intrinsic urge for self-development while having an internal urge to fulfill team tasks aimed at optimizing the performance of the team.

Further studies on transformational leadership styles indicate the leadership model that the coach may use to approach the team in stimulating one’s intellectual creativity in sports in team members to optimize capabilities and performance. In this case, the coach values learning as a key component in leadership to provide new solutions to problems and other challenges that may affect team development or performance, though seeking for the most appropriate approach to motivate team members toward optimizing individual and team performance. Challenges bound to arise within team dynamics and the leadership in coaching open up new learning opportunities to improve on leadership styles to seek for other new methods to achieve peak performance. Thus, the transformational leadership style concurs with the servant leadership style where the leadership values input from the team member, which “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (Spears, 2009 p.20). The team leadership mode under the transformational leadership allows the coach or leader to provide inspirational motivation by articulating a vision of a masterpiece or excellent performance for the team. It is true as has been argued that the vision could be characterized by intrinsic appeal, in this case the benefits likely to be gained as a team and for each team member when the team achieves peak performance.

Tasks performed by team members are based on the inspiration provided by the coach or leader toward the attainment of specified goals and objectives toward the attainment of peak performance. Servant leadership seems to be compatible with the transformational style of leadership since servant leadership seems to provide team members with motivation and inspiration required to become a successful team. When analyzing both leadership styles communication skills are speculated more on the characteristics of the servant leadership style that revolves around the concept of self as a steward of the organization and its people, and active listening as one of the characteristics of servant leadership as well as basic performance elements of a team (Greenleaf, 1977). Communication components of transformational leadership provide coaches with idealized influence on its team members. Idealized influence draws on the skilled capability of the team leader or the coach to behave as a role model to instill integrity, respect, ethical behavior, and trust in the leadership and eyes of the team members. These components can be provided based on the servant leadership style that models an environment where team members and coach regard it as responsibilities to model behaviors and attitudes that aim to transform the team to higher capabilities and performance to focus on achieving peak performance on a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team.

Thus, differences and implications for athletic teams are summarized in the conceptualized models shown in table 2.

Table 2.

differences and implications for athletic teams are summarized in the conceptualized models

Other team leadership styles that have been studied and applied in different disciplines as management tools including situational leadership styles, and inspirational, leadership styles as comparatively studied below.

Servant Leadership Model vs. Situational Leadership Model

The Situational Leadership model from Blanchard and Hersey certifies that leaders must use different leadership styles depending on the situation (Wren, 1995). “This method allows you to analyze the needs of the situation one’s in, presumes that different leadership styles are better in different situations, and that leaders must be flexible enough to adapt styles to the situations” (Hyung Hur, 2008 p. 361). In comparison, the servant leadership is not based on constantly reevaluating arising situations to formulate strategies to address new challenges that rise with changing coaching needs. Servant leadership, where the leader inculcates and nurtures an unborn desire to lead a team toward the attainment of a specific goal, which renders an effective team radically, departs from the underlying concept of the situational leadership style. Thus, the implications for an athletic coach present constant changing situations to provide leadership (Hyung Hur, 2008).

Task behavior and relationship underlie the direction of the situational leadership style (Hyung Hur, 2008). Comparatively, servant leadership bases its leadership on persuasion where the coach does not coerce subordination of the team members, but uses one’s leadership skills to convince team members about an issue and a decision with desired outcomes. This element distinguishes the servant leadership style with other leadership styles including the classical leadership models that had encouraging basis on religion as argued by (Greenleaf, 1977; Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008). The situational leadership style is task directive based (Wren, 1995). That does not always sit well with the servant leadership style in sports for the athletic coach, although seems to infringe and underestimate the mental capacity of the team members’ therefore compelling subordination even when disagreeing with the team.

“Situational leadership is designed to increase the frequency and quality of conversations about performance and development between managers and the people they work with so that competence is developed, commitment is gained, and talented individuals are performing at full potential” (Hyung Hur, 2008 p. 362). Both leadership behaviors appropriately address different environments. According to the situational leadership model,” there is no, “one way” to go about leading or influencing others, it’s all about finding the “best possible way” (Wooden & Jamison, 2005).

Servant Leadership Model vs. Ethical Leadership Model

Ethical leadership is demonstrated in sports as individual players, the team, coach, or athletic organization adheres to the rules of conduct (Weese, 1996). Ethical leadership closely compares with servant leadership. Both value the principle of long-term relationships. In coaching, it is important to uphold integrity, a fact that both servant leadership and ethical leadership models strongly emphasize on. As Weinberg and Gould (2003) states, a servant leader would always strive to ensure that all members feel part of the leadership team. This example is one of the leading principles of ethical leadership. The two leadership styles though share a lot of similarities, have a number of differences that makes them different. Whereas servant leadership emphasize on a leadership that involves the leader creating an environment where followers feel they are the leaders, ethical leadership does not. In its place, ethical leadership emphasizes on the need for the leader to act in a manner that would be viewed as fair and moral by all concerned individuals.

Servant Leadership Model vs. Inspirational Leadership Model

According to Doherty and Danylchuk (1996), Chelladurai (1990), LeUnes and Nation, (2002) inspirational leadership is motivational, draws on emotional attachments to the leader the force behind goal-oriented leadership. While little research has been conducted on the influence of inspirational leadership on coaching leadership in sports, available studies link underlying inspiration, charismatic motivation, decision-making effectiveness, and the suitability of the leadership style to different environments toward the attainment of organizational objectives. Similar in sports, coaching is based on sheer hard work, right inspiration, and determination (Kidman, 2005; Leland, 1988). A contrast where the servant leader develops a natural urge to lead signifies a weakness inspirational leadership, where motivation and inspiration is the key to success. That is because the “natural urge to lead” and “inspiring by performing” contrast, implying leadership without inspiration excellence in performance cannot lead failing to create insight in the team and when the leader has poor leadership and performance skills. Inspirational leadership is narrow in context while servant leadership is wide in context, a gap that cannot be narrowed by the inspirational leadership concept.

Servant Leadership Model vs. Charismatic Leadership Model

Charismatic leadership possesses characteristics that make it appropriate for coaching leadership. The main characteristics of charismatic leadership include simplicity, self-confidence, creative persuasive and risk lovers. This leadership style has close comparison to servant leadership. A charismatic leader would influence followers. In coaching, this kind of leadership would be effective. Using this model of leadership a coach would need to convince his or her players that a given course of action would be best suited to give out the desired result within a specified time. This way, players would appreciate the need to act in a given direction as a way of achieving a specified shared goal. Weinberg and Gould (2003) state, this strategy is best for a long-term basis. Servant leadership acts in the same manner. A leader would provide foresight to the followers and let them take given course of action without any form of coursing. Charismatic leaders create an environment where the followers would feel that they are in the lead, that one’s opinions are given priority they deserve.

This would be very helpful in coaching. When players are motivated and left to act on one’s own will (even though the will may have been shaped by the leader), they would feel responsible for one’s actions and would want to act in a manner that would help them ensure that they are successful. Both the servant leadership model and charismatic leadership styles compare in that both depend on the creativity and intelligence of the leader. The leader has the task of ensuring that followers performs a given task in a manner that is desirable to the leader, but without the use of any force. Tasks are not always easy; as Boiche and Sarrazin (2009) communicate a human being is an independent creature with thoughts, which vary randomly. When there is a task at hand, there would be as many suggestions of the best way of doing the task, as there would be the number of people present. Both types of leaderships would demand that a leader make everyone act in the same direction, although without any force. It would take intelligence and creativity to read the mind of everyone present and tune the minds to act in a given specific manner.

Despite the striking similarities, it is worth noting that there are some differences that make these two types of leadership different and applicable in different set-ups. While servant leadership demands that a leader listens to the followers wishes and act as per the demands, a charismatic leader would make followers act as per his or her desires. Boiche and Sarrazin (2009) say that whereas servant leadership takes an outward in approach, charismatic leadership takes an inward outward approach. In coaching, both strategies would be appropriate in different occasions. When time is limited and there is need for quick results, charismatic leadership would be the most appropriate. If there were enough time for training and the coach would need as many opinions as may be available for trial purposes, then servant leadership would be the most applicable.

Dr. Laub’s Six Tenants That Make up Servant Leadership

Displaying Authenticity

Bardes, Mayer, and Piccolo (2008) discussed extensively on the uniqueness of servant leadership from the theoretical and practical implications on the performance of business organizations, with displaying authenticity as one of the key issues to success in performance (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008; Greenleaf, 1977). Authenticity requires that an organizational leader creates an environment of trust, understands oneself to model behaviors that could influence team members positively by considering ethical values of team members, attempts to create hope which is the underlying motivation to perform, demonstrates optimism, and resilience that constitutes a positive psychological environment for team members as can be applied in sports (Gersh, 2006), Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett (2002). When a parallel with sports on authenticity is drawn, the effects can be translated to sports to act the baseline for motivating team members toward improving one’s performance with the ultimate driving force to achieve peak performance.

That could provide significant contributions to team members developing an attitude that fosters development of talent and cultivation of optimism toward better performance. If the coach as a team leader effectively implements the concept, better performance could be realized, as working relationships between team members will improve. Current studies by Whetstone (2002), Annette, Joseph, and Clifford (2010) support the latter position and reinforce the need for organizations to identify the importance and implications of servant leadership on organizations (Banutu-Gomez, 2004). The learning point here shows unparalleled implications for the servant leader in providing leadership services to lead, showing the significance of a coach in cultivating an environment of servant hood to be emulated by team members (Greenleaf, 1977). These variables have not been shown how they empirically impact on organizational performance, but examined keenly could contribute positively to psychological orientation of the coach and translate to each team member (Gersh, 2006; Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett, 2002). That is supported by Covey (2008) who figures the idea of a servant leader as a leader willing to serve and provide dependability instead of despair playing an example for those who want direction and purpose (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008; Crippen, 2006; Hannay, 2009; Hays, 2008). No link was established to leadership in sports by earlier researchers a knowledge gap to fill today.

Valuing People

Research by a number of authors has shown that valuing people is an attribute with strong implications on organizational performance. Laub’s (1999) and Banutu-Gomez (2004) describes the positive attitude leaders develop in people when the sense of value prevails in one’s mind to contribute significantly toward stimulating a positive attitude in the direction of those who are led. That draws a parallel with the organizational impact of leaders who value job satisfaction as an organizational tool of motivating people on the path to working harder to achieve goals. That draws from the behavioral perspective of servant leadership that can influence the emotional and motivational perspective of a player leading to improved performance in sports (De Cremer, 2007). That was from the behavioral perspective the role of the servant leader as a process to inculcate trust in followers, modernize societies, and provide love for human values, which is a modern perspective of servant leadership. A gap on the impact of change on developing the society has not been exhaustively researched; Andrew’s (2001) draws on findings to reinforce Banutu-Gomez’s (2004) findings. The connection becomes all too evident as sports teams thrive on how the coach values team members as emphasized by (Gross, 2004; Hatamleh, Abu Al-Ruz, & Hindawi, 2009; Armstrong, 2001).

Hays (2008) describes servant leadership as a way that a leader could profoundly respect other human beings and yet still operate to achieve organizational goals to bring about organizational change (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008; Bell & Habel, 2009). Bell and Habel (2009) concur that the agenda for change would consist of building congruence across the elements of one’s character and values in which they believe in. That congruence could have implications on the leadership approach a coach uses and one’s individual performance. That forms the basis for Baric and Bucik’s (2009) argument on motivating team members in sports, being consistent with leadership theories as argued by (Bass, 1990). Extensively based on Greenleaf’s (1970) studies, servant leadership provides the basis for valuing others top priority. Servant leaders are committed to seeing the intrinsic value personally, professionally, and spiritually of each individual (Wilson, 1989; Bowman, 2000; Carter & Bloom, 2009). The point of emphasis for these studies includes the flexibility of servant leadership as a leadership tool for athletic coaches to show how far they value team members, a motivating factor to one’s devotion to team success, optimizing the behavioral characteristics of teams to optimize performance (Bass, 1990; Bell & Habel, 2009; Bowman, 2000). These contributions lack the modeling, power alignment, and path finding components where Green (1977) showed bias toward religious values such as compassion, service, and gratitude.

Developing People

Current research shows the value of developing people is one of the servant leadership attributes shown to be a crucial component influencing organizational managers toward achieving success for people operating in teams. The case for sports borrows strongly from this concept where authors including Wageman (2001), Weese (1994); Werthner and Trudel (2006) have demonstrated the gains organizations make when leaders invest in developing organizational employees. That is best illustrated in sports when the coaches based on the servant leadership concepts invest one’s skills and knowledge to develop each team member’s skill-sets, capabilities, and engaging them in personal development reviews to take corrective measures to ensure positive contributions (Chelladurai, 1990).

The servant leader organizes sporting members by empowering them to identify and determine performance improvement points, and ensure individual roles and responsibilities. Servant leaders in that case motivate team members to move from one level of success by making team members feel the importance of one’s individual contribution toward team success. Most good leaders in this case, as can be applied to coaches leading basketball teams are lifelong learners. That is in line with what Green (1977) asserted by viewing the benchmark test for a good servant leader is to motivate people toward realizing one’s full potential. Such development underlies the team leader’s ability to stimulate increased productivity, improved efficiency, and an improved competitive edge on team members.

In the leadership of today’s organizations with sports as the parallel, the possibility of reengineering, restructuring, and reorganizing organizations to inculcate the sense of effectiveness in carrying out tasks at the management and individual levels. Each team member has a clear understanding of one’s obligations and takes ownership of the entire team tasks based on the underlying servant leadership role of developing people to play a pivotal role. The parallel here uniquely applies to sports applying across both genders with special emphasis on Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams (Boroski & Greif, 2009). Another parallel with athletic teams demonstrates that when team members are developed, they realize one’s potential and desire to contribute to the success of the team in basketball with the aim of performing at one’s best. Success brings several other benefits to a team.

Building Community

A common practice among human beings is that people work in teams to achieve the best results toward a shared goal (Whetstone, 2002; Smethers & Jenney, 2010). The underlying rationale is the synergy gained from team members. A significant number of team dynamics occur among teams and require active participation of each team member and team leader. If players on teams actively get involved toward working to achieve a performance objective, a synergetic model adds value to one’s efforts collectively leading to better results. Such success can only be attained when the leader provides the required leadership ingredients toward that shared goal for the team members who coexist as a community (McCuddy & Cavin, 2008). Working in teams has significantly been exemplified in the servant leadership style adopted in religion (Whetstone, 2002). That is because people coexist in communities, with individual members inter-dependently drawing upon the energy contributed by individuals toward attaining shared goals.

That inter-dependence is based on God like love, which is the Christian principle of loving one another (Whetstone, 2002; Smethers & Jenney, 2010). Drawing a parallel with sports, team members in basketball exist as communities with the underlying servant leadership principles governing individual and team development. The coach who is the servant leader is not only emulated as a leader, but provides an environment that fosters persuasion, growth, inspiration, and accountability for team contributions to success. The team leader plays a significant role by establishing a positive relationship with team members, devoting self to identifying hidden talents in individuals in a team for one’s development, attempting and placing measures in place to ensure the best is captured out of others, showing the sense of forgiving others to relief psychologically related stresses among team members, devoting time and energy for the growth of others, and ensuring personal growth is cultivated in a team to realize individual and team potential (Jamison, 2005; Whetstone, 2002).

Providing Leadership

Providing leadership, as one of the servant leadership attributes in sports is the ability to influence team members to work hard to maximize inner potential to the fullest and adds to the synergy to excel (Annette, Joseph, & Clifford, 2010). An athletic coach servant leader endowed with intelligence, vision, values, appropriate behavior, provides the necessary social influence and direction to team members to work toward a shared goal (De Cremer, 2007). In sports, team members have the intrinsic values and emotional feelings that can be influenced by the team leader based on one’s moods, affective tones, and group processes to expend individual efforts toward effectiveness (Jamison, 2005). The athletic coach servant leader when convinced of the appropriateness of the direction provided on team member’s influences affective events to influence team behavior and attitude toward the leader and ultimate influence on one’s performance according to (Bird, 1977).

The servant leader in this case draws on appropriate task allocations, resource utilization, and feedback on issues related to team leadership (Chen, Sharma, Edinger, Shapiro, & Farh, 2011). That is because on a team, unity is crucial to success, interpersonal relationships play a significant role in the task executions, and the united ability inculcated in team members to develop followership to follow the lead of the leader (Fagenson-Eland, 2001). The ultimate success in performance of the team draws on the above directions provided by the team leader by coaching them in different aspects of team development. That is the case with Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The athletic coach provides direction to ensure success by motivating them through listening, positive praise, and providing other forms of direction toward achieving specified goals (Vinod & Sudhakar, 2011). That is best illustrated in the studies and discussions by (Robbins, Houston, & Dummer, 2010) of the contributions made by the leader to exercise direction, establish relations, and communicate expectations to stimulate followership.

Sharing Leadership

Current studies including cited authors show that organizational performance as a prerequisite and measure successful organizations on the ability to maximize participation and employee involvement for individuals and teams members working in such organizations (Trompenaars & Voerman, 2009). To achieve organizational success based on individual and team performance, the servant leader shares leadership, which is one of the unique leadership attributes in pursuing organizational and team goals. The role of the coach as a servant leader is to infuse team effectiveness to attain high levels of efficacy by creating a well-functioning team on the basketball court (Annette, Joseph, & Clifford, 2010). The servant leader identifies the purpose and leads by prioritizing activities that lead to effective team performance.

The athletic coach as a servant leader ensures team effectiveness as a prerequisite to better performance with the aim of pursuing the ultimate goal of achieving peak performance by specifying certain roles and responsibilities to team members (Hayward, Neill, & Peterson, 2007). Servant leaders must make decisions by sharing leadership with various team members who together will decide on the best actions, roles, and responsibilities each team member will account for measured up to the unique qualities of each team member to foster collective responsibility. The coach does not own leadership, but remains proactive in identifying the best approach to share leadership toward pursuing success with a win-win perspective where the best solutions have positive implications on the leader and team members. Issues like forces in teams that have negative or positive implications on the performance of the team are best handled at team level where each decision made reflect team norms, effectiveness, and the desire to succeed. Success is reflected in a harmonious leadership that results from the servant leadership approach the coach employs in sports without any use of force or coercion (Trompenaars & Voerman, 2009).

Similarities and Gaps in Literature

Literature on servant leadership with special reference to coaching leadership in sports for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball has similarities and gaps that the current study seeks to fill. Many authors including Gould, Dieffenbach, & Moffett (2002) on the servant leadership style provides perspectives on how best the leadership style fits into different organizational backgrounds, with no reference to the servant leadership style for coaches in sports (Bardes, Mayer, & Piccolo, 2008). In the context of the current study, the author agrees with other authors on the definition of servant leadership style as used in many business organizations, but falls short of finding any definition bias to the servant leadership in sports.

On extensive analysis and exploration of available literature, the definition by other authors on servant leadership agrees with the findings of this paper’s author. The working definition commonly agreed upon draws from what Spears (2009) defines as a “process of enabling individuals to grow healthier, wiser, freer and more antonymous through the art of servant-hood” (p.20). Here, the author has not linked the studies on servant leadership with the leadership, not only for coaches, but also the leadership for women in sports. It is only on how to apply the elements in the definition in sports that the author seeks to synchronize with the definition. The author seeks to establish best practices and leadership characteristics to apply the defining components of the servant leadership style as provided in the study with the leadership in sports with special emphasis on the leadership for the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

The study seeks to explore how servant leadership has been successful and how to apply the leadership style to succeed in sports to achieve peak performance. Underlying the inquiry is conducting studies on the historical perspective of leadership, which the author draws on the knowledge of different authors, and how it may connect with successful leadership in sports. The author of the study and other authors referenced in the paper commonly agree upon the historical perspectives. There is no gap identified in knowledge on the historical background of leadership in sports especially for women in basketball.

The core element in the study is in achieving peak performance, which underlies the study of defining whatever comprises a successful coach. The author draws on literature MacLean and Chelladurai (1995), Leland (1988), and LeUnes and Nation (2002) in identifying the best leadership approach an athletic coach may use to prepare a team to play to achieve the best performance. The contention in the case is team preparedness. The current study has shown weaknesses in addressing the issue of team preparedness, how to deal with the forces inside teams, how to overcome team conflicts, and team dynamics in general. That is because team members who make up the basketball teams are composed of player’s from different backgrounds. Here, the authors referenced in the study and the current study conducted minimal literature and depth of scholarship applied to the athletic arena.

The author gradually merged literature on defining successful coaches, systems to train coaches, models of leadership in sports, gender differences in coaching styles, and women in leadership with the servant leadership style to discover the best leadership style for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. With regard to servant leadership style and women in leadership, the author has discovered gaps in the behavioral characteristics of women and men, and the likely implications on the leadership style to achieve peak performance. The current study has established eight core leadership characteristics for athletic coaches, which the author seeks to, synchronize with the servant leadership style with special reference to the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Authors of the eight characteristics of successful coaches had a gap in literature by failing to link the eight coaches’ leadership characteristics with the servant leadership characteristics and the implications on the performance of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The author explored ways to integrate and align the eight characteristics to achieve peak performance. The study further seeks to synchronize motivation, clarity, reflection, persuasion, conceptualization, awareness, context, and commitment with the servant leadership style to achieve peak performance.

The gaps in the above literature were identifying how each of the elements could be integrated into sports leadership literature to provide the best leadership for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. That is in addition to contributing knowledge on the best approach for a leader to exemplify servant leadership characteristics and how one may use to sustain core attributes to achieve peak performance in athletic leadership. The study further established a strong relationship between achieving peak performance and servant leadership characteristics used in coaching sports.

A detailed discussion of the servant leadership six characteristics as coined by Greenleaf (1977) of “displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building communities, providing leadership, and sharing leadership” (p.20) were discussed in detail and the author discovered the authenticity to be an element that could improve team performance, knowledge that was in agreement with studies by Whetstone (2002), Annette, Joseph, and Clifford (2010), among others. The author in the current study discovered the implications of authenticity on team performance based on the desire to serve others. The study further demonstrated implications valuing people have on the performance of athletic teams. Other findings with similarities with other authors included the element of developing people based on the roles and responsibilities associated with team leaders. Other leadership qualities such as building community, providing leadership, and sharing leadership were in agreement with the findings the author established with the research discovered.

To gain the best knowledge on why servant leadership is the best leadership style to achieve peak performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the author conducted a comparative study with other leadership styles to share differences and similarities in the literature. Research results showed the leadership literature by authors of the servant, autocratic, transactional, transformational, situational, ethical, inspirational, and charismatic, leadership literature were similar to the knowledge of the author of the current study. In that regard, the differences between other leadership styles and the servant leadership style crystallized quickly and indicated the unsuitability of the leadership styles compared with the servant leadership style for the leadership in sports with special reference for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams.

When combining the theoretical and practical aspects of the servant leadership with special reference to Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the author took the study further by studying leadership models used in sports. Once again there is a high need for new literature due to the limited amount of literature sharing various leadership styles athletic coaches are using in sports. The leadership models in sports were used as the foundation where knowledge on servant leadership could be merged with literature on leadership models to discover best practices or themes directly correlated with coaches’ win-loss record, student-athlete grade point average, and retention/graduation rates. The underlying rationale provided the basis for merging the knowledge sources to discover which leadership style would also work best to achieve peak performance in sports.

Special emphasis in the current study is the literature on servant leadership style, which may be regarded as the best leadership style for coaches in sports to achieve peak performance. In the context of the servant leadership style, Dr. Jim Laub’s (1999) and Spears (2009), among other authors have provided not only the definition of servant leadership, but developed a scale that organizations can use to measure the effectiveness of the servant leadership style and the consistencies of organizational leaders in complying with the six characteristics of the servant leadership. The study established the facts on the servant leadership style to revolve around six characteristics which include “displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building communities, providing leadership, and sharing leadership” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 20). Toward enabling effective leadership, in turn enables employees to work to the fullest potential to achieve the best performance in organizations. The findings fell short of demonstrating the significance and applicability of the six servant leadership characteristics in sports and specifically for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Here, the current study attempted to connect the six characteristics with the leadership in sports and endeavored to show how the six characteristics are critical in maximizing team success.

The author has explored literature by different authors on servant leadership and various other styles used in a variety of settings. Literature has identified a gap researchers must fill to explain what it takes to be a successful coach, how coaches may improve leadership practices, which models are most effective, how to remove gender differences or barriers, how women leaders are perceived, which characteristics make up successful coaches, and what styles of leadership are being used in today’s coaching arena to achieve peak performance.

Conclusion

Leadership is very important in every aspect of life. There are various models of leadership that a given leader can use in a given organization or group. The applicability of the servant leadership style has been identified from the historical, organizational, and current trends with an analogy in sports and the relative comparisons with other leadership styles established to showcase various strengths and weaknesses. The key strengths include, “listening, empathy, healing (of oneself and others), awareness of others, situations and oneself, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community” (Greenleaf, 1977 p. 21), which underlie coaching leadership the literature review has identified central to the coach providing leadership toward achieving peak performance in sports. To that end, the literature review draws on different authors to answer the research question on the extent the six servant leadership characteristics influence the performance of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the relative implications of different leadership styles including transactional and autocratic leadership style with servant leadership style on coaches leadership and team performance, the contribution of the servant leadership style to coaches success, and how the servant leadership style leads to the achievement of peak performance in sports.

The contributions of the servant leadership to answering the questions are significantly pivoted in the eight servant leadership characteristics as analogues to sports. Authors including Case (1984), Chelladurai and Saleh (1980), Pratt and Eitzen (1989), Wren (1995), Anderson and Gill (1983) discuss gender in sports, have been featured with contributions, on gender and leadership with key findings showing that gender does not impede on leadership performance. The case with Barnett, Smoll, and Smith (1992), Greenleaf (1977), Gersh (2006), Dimec and Kajtna (2009), Fifer (2006) on coaching leadership and motivational implications on team performance have been discussed, where Bass (1985) correlates leadership to performance among other authors. Theory and practice are interlinked with one’s implications on leadership (Bird, 1977). Authors including Heydarinejad and Adman (2010), among others provide current trends to the servant leadership style.

The rationale of the literature review is to provide the research answer the research questions to determine the extent to which servant leadership style six characteristic are appropriate and best for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams to achieve peak performance, the relative implications of other leadership styles compared with the servant leadership style in pursuing peak performance impact on the performance of the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The research examines in detail to identify how the servant leadership leads Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball team to success and the leadership style’s performance implications in sports with analogy on Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams, the focus of the study.

Summary

Chapter two provides a detailed study of the servant leadership style’s six characteristics, a comparative study of the servant leadership style with other leadership models, drawing from the different authors in leadership, leadership theories, implications on organizational performance, historical and current implications, and appropriateness of the servant leadership model in coaching leadership for a Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams compared with other models based on authors who include among others (Volckmann, 2009; Vinod & Sudhakar, 2011; Turman, 2003; Whetstone, 2002; Pyun, Kwon, Koh, & Wang, 2010; Greenleaf, 1977; & Gersh, 2006). Evidence from the literature review shows coaches’ leadership drawing a parallel with business, military, and other organizations show strong consistent trends of shifting toward the servant leadership style based on the six characteristics. Other authors contradict the servant leadership model for specific situations. They specifically point out the fact that servant leadership is time consuming and therefore may be inappropriate when there is need for urgency.

Evidence shows other leadership styles appropriate for unique leadership environments with the servant leadership style most appropriate and leaders showing a bias toward the leadership style, unanswered questions remain that include what the implications could be by integrating other leadership styles and developing a universal leadership model. Current implications include integrating the servant leadership style to coaching leadership to achieve peak performance in sports. The research has a gap that needs to be addressed to include the universality of the model, weaknesses, and effectiveness of the leadership style on its economic standing on the performance of the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Mixed research methods will inform the study on the leadership variables and one’s relative implications on coaching leadership with the servant leadership the underlying model to achieve peak performance in sports. This research has various implications. To the coaches, they will find this material very useful in deciding on which strategy to use on coaching players. To the future researcher, this material will be a guide on what steps should be taken on coming up with successful research in this field. This research has answered the questions raised in the research proposal. The question that still remains unanswered due to a lot of contradiction from various scholars is the best combination of leadership models that can be used in coaching Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball.

Methods

Introduction

The purpose of the proposed study is to identify, through the perceptions of women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches’, potential explanations of some of the best leadership strategies and practices within the servant leadership model that could then be employed by the coaches to assist student-athletes and teams with achieving peak performance. While placing much focus on servant leadership style, the rationale of the study is grounded on identifying a leadership style that may provide athletic coaches with quality and refined knowledge of leadership, with the view to achieving peak performance in basketball and other sports undertaken by women. The Organizational Leadership Assessment Scale formulated by Dr. Laub (1999) will form the benchmark for evaluating the six servant leadership characteristics in comparison with other leadership styles on organizational performance. This chapter begins with a description of the research design before illuminating the phenomenology research methodology earmarked for use in the study. The section will then provide an explanation on population and sampling, data collection methodology, instrumentation, validity and reliability issues and the procedures that will be used for analyzing the data, before concluding with a summary of the chapter.

Research Paradigm

Although available literature demonstrates that research paradigms are sets of practices and beliefs (Biel et al., 2007), they are essentially typified by ontological, epistemological and methodological variations in their approaches to research and contribution to evidence and knowledge base (Wahyuni, 2012). Denzin and Lincoln (1994) cited in Welford et al (2011) “described six main paradigms: constructionism, interpretivism, feminism, positivism, post-positivism and critical theory” (p. 38-39). In explaining the research paradigm that this study intends to adopt, it is plausible first to mention that the theoretical perspective or philosophical underpinning of any research study is premised on the methodology in research questions and can encompass positivism, post-positivism, social constructionism, pragmatism, interpretivism, critical theory and others (Wahyuni, 2012).

As acknowledged by Crotty (1998) cited in Walker and Bopp (2010), a “theoretical perspective serves as an entrance into the logic and methods used in studying and researching in the social sciences” (p. 53). This study will employ the theoretical perspective or research paradigm of interpretivism as it is not only used to explain human and social reality in line with a phenomenological methodology that will be at the core of the methods used for data collection, but it also emphasizes understanding the ‘meaning’ individuals place on their actions” (Welford et al., 2011). Consequently, in the proposed study, interpretivism best meets the interests of the researcher as it can be employed as a lens through which to comprehensively investigate and understand the best leadership style that could be used by Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches to achieve peak performance among individual female student-athletes as well as basketball teams. The choice is also informed by the fact that the major objective of interpretive research is to comprehend and search for meaning in experience from multitudes of perspectives, resulting in inductive theory development (Biel et al., 2007).

Research Design

The underlying objective of the proposed study is to describe the meaning or essence of various leadership characteristics and practices demonstrated by participants, with the view to identifying the best leadership style that could then be used to coach individual female-athletes and basketball teams within the context of Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball to achieve peak performance. This objective qualifies the qualitative research method to be used in answering the key research questions as “qualitative research stresses the socially constructed nature of reality, the relationship between the researcher and what is being studied, and the situational constraints that shape reality, while quantitative research emphasizes the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes” (Welford et al., 2012 p. 29).

Even more significant, employing a qualitative research method in this study will assist the researcher to collect rich in-depth descriptions of the various leadership characteristics and practices by documenting, describing and identifying patterns, concepts and relationships between the various elements of leadership styles demonstrated or preferred by the sampled participants (Biel et al., 2007). Using the qualitative method, it would also be possible for the researcher to generate theoretical explanations that seek to not only explain reality, but also link the identified elements of quality leadership to the six servant leadership characteristics developed in 1999 by Dr. Jim Laub. These characteristics include “displaying authenticity, valuing people, developing people, building community, providing leadership and sharing leadership” (Laub, 1999).

A strand of extant literature (e.g., Morse & Field, 1996; Polit et al., 2001) demonstrates that qualitative research is inductive by virtue of being directed toward bringing knowledge into view, descriptive by virtue of naming phenomena and positioning relationships, natural by virtue of being conducted in a naturalistic setting that considers context as components of the phenomena, and flexible by virtue of its capacity to merge various data collection strategies or methods. Burns and Grove (2001) cited in Welford et al (2012) acknowledge “there is no single reality in qualitative research, reality changes over time and that meaning is contextual and situational” (p. 30). All these attributes will be central in assisting the researcher to answer the key research questions by providing the capacity not only to investigate and describe important leadership elements within the context of the preferred servant leadership model and in the participants’ natural settings, but also to identify and name the exhibiting leadership styles and position relationships among them with the view to discovering the best leadership style that could be applied in coaching basketball to facilitate the achievement of peak performance in individual athletes and teams.

Research Methodology & Appropriateness

Present research provides disjointed and often contradictory results regarding the best leadership style that can be used in sports settings to facilitate effectiveness and competitiveness among individual athletes as well as teams of athletes (Walker & Bopp, 2010). Consequently, a phenomenological methodology will be used to gain insights into the lived experience of participants and their leadership styles or preferences, with the view to discovering which elements form the best leadership style that could be used by coaches in Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches to drive peak performance among female student-athletes and teams.

Welford et al (2012), in their contribution on qualitative and quantitative research processes, note, “phenomenology is a strategy of inquiry in which the researcher identifies the essence of human experiences about a phenomenon as described by participants” (p. 30). In the context of the proposed study, a phenomenological research approach will avail the best framework to answer the key research questions due to its reliance on subjective, descriptive approaches rather than scientific measures (Morse & Field, 1996), and also due to its primary focus on providing first-hand descriptions of how the different leadership styles are experienced or preferred by participants rather than merely providing an understanding of the cause of mentioned leadership styles or preferences (Welford et al., 2012).

Although there are several variants of phenomenology methodology, the study uses hermeneutics phenomenological approach developed in 1927 by Heidegger, who advocated for actual “bracketing of researchers’ experiences: in other words, researchers acknowledge one’s beliefs and experiences that may influence the research and bracket them to keep them separate from the research findings” (Welford et al., 2012 p. 30). In his seminal study on qualitative methods, Laverty (2003) acknowledges, “hermeneutic research is interpretive and concentrate[s] on historical meanings of experience and their developmental and cumulative effects on individual and social levels” (p. 15).

Consequently, the use of hermeneutic phenomenological approach is relevant not only in assisting the researcher to become more aware of his/her preconceptions and account for them as interpretive influences in the process of discovering the best leadership style among different leadership styles portrayed by participants in one’s lived experience (Laverty, 2003), but also in uncovering hidden “truths” about how participants conduct themselves in specific contexts and how one’s mental thoughts materialize into diverse leadership styles (Mortari, 2008). More importantly, the approach assists the researcher to develop a meaningful understanding of the most important elements that form the best leadership style within the sport context by exercising critical self-awareness and authentic openness in one’s conversational relation with the various leadership styles or preferences as they are described by the participants (Wahyuni, 2012; Welford et al., 2012).

In the context of the proposed study, phenomenology has distinct advantages over other qualitative research methodologies, such as grounded theory, ethnography and case studies. The first of these advantages is the fact that phenomenology will assist the researcher to discover the essence of the phenomenon; that is the researcher will get to know the elements that make up the best leadership style as will be described by participants with the view of understanding one’s lived experience (Welford et al., 2012). On the contrary, grounded theory can only be used to explain a given social situation (Morse & Field, 1996), whereas ethnographies take a long time to effectively be able to study people in one’s own natural settings (Wahyuni, 2012).

Another advantage is that while data for other qualitative studies such as the grounded theory come from multitudes of sources, hence weakening the rigor of research (Creswell, 2007), data for phenomenological research come sorely from the participants’ accounts of lived experience, hence assisting the researcher to challenge structural or normative assumptions by describing and investigating the experiences and perceptions of participants about the phenomenon of interest (best leadership style in sports settings) from one’s own perspectives (Biel et al., 2007). Phenomenological research not only calls for deep reflection on the data collected to avoid researcher bias, but also ensures that the meaning or essence of the findings is achieved as a result of co-creation between the researcher and the participants, calling on the latter to join the former in reflecting on the leadership experience (Morse & Field, 1996).

Population & Sampling

Population

The population has been defined in the literature as the group from whom the study population is drawn (Creswell, 2007), or the total members of a defined class of individuals, objects, places or events selected by a researcher in the process of conducting a research study owing to the fact that they are relevant to the stated research questions (Morse & Field, 1996). Owing to the fact that the purpose of the proposed study is to discover the best leadership characteristics and practices among different leadership styles demonstrated by basketball coaches as per the servant leadership model, the study population will comprise Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) located throughout Georgia.

The inclusion (eligibility) criteria for the study population include the following dimensions:

  • Demonstration of adequate knowledge on leadership and leadership styles;
  • Coaches must be 21 years or older;
  • Coaches may be of either gender;
  • Coaches must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of leadership styles;
  • Participants must be strictly drawn from the PBC geographical area, and;
  • Participants must demonstrate willingness to take part in the study.

Sampling

Extant literature demonstrates that “choosing a study sample is an important step in any research project since it is rarely practical, efficient or ethical to study whole populations” (Marshall, 1996 p. 522). The underlying objective of quantitative sampling strategies is premised on drawing a representative sample from the population so that the outcomes of studying the sample can then be generalized back into the population, whereas that of qualitative sampling strategies is grounded on providing illumination and understanding of complex social phenomena and are most functional for responding to the humanistic “why?” and “how?” questions (Creswell, 2007).

The proposed study is firmly anchored on attempting to provide illumination and understanding of the best leadership characteristics and practices that could then be used by coaches within the Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball settings to achieve peak performance not only for individual female student-athletes, but also for basketball teams. Consequently, purposeful (judgmental) sampling technique will be employed to assist the researcher in actively selecting the most productive and knowledgeable sample that could then be used to answer the key research questions. The sample will include four Women’s NCAA Division II coaches with diverse ethnic backgrounds, gender, age, and educational backgrounds. It is important to note that in the collection of data from the participants, the qualitative method selected will draw on behavioral responses on the six characteristics of the servant leadership style as illustrated in Dr. Luab’s Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument.

Purposive sampling technique has a distinct advantage over other non-probability sampling techniques in this type of study because it enables the researcher to focus attention on individuals who share particular characteristics or posses unique knowledge in particular areas (Creswell, 2007). In the proposed study, therefore, purposive sampling will enable the researcher to collect rich contextual data on the best leadership style that could be used by coaches to achieve peak performance among individual student-athletes as well as teams, in large part due to the fact that the sample posses unique knowledge on leadership approaches and practices, and also shares particular characteristics that are coalesced around the fact that they belong to unique basketball teams and hence are able to reflect on their preferences in a leadership that has capacity to enable female student-athletes to achieve peak performance.

Protection of Human Subjects

Informed Consent

An informed consent form will be provided to the respondents before the commencement of data collection exercise to seek permission to include them in the study as per the guidelines set out by IRB and other agencies that provide guidelines regarding participation of human participants in a research study. The researcher will ensure participants provide informed consent to participate in the study based on a clear appreciation and comprehension of the facts, implications and potential implications that may be generated by the act of participating in the study, implying that participants concerned must demonstrate sufficient reasoning faculties and be in control of all pertinent facts at the time of giving consent.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is crucial in any research as it provides the respondents with the confidence that third parties cannot use information provided. The researcher will take time to assure participants that the information provided would be used in confidence for the purpose of this study without any disclosure except at the express permission of the participants.

Geographic Location

The proposed study will cover four women’s NCAA Division II basketball programs from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) located throughout Georgia (Armstrong Atlantic State University, Clayton State University, Georgia College, and Young Harris College) to obtain data that could be generally applicable to college basketball programs. The main assumption here is that the results and demographic characteristics are applicable across all female basketball teams. That will be in addition to allowing the use of diversity of participants from different ethnic backgrounds and environments with the benefit of using the Internet to provide the flexibility of gathering large amounts of data from the mentioned geographic location.

Data Collection

Data collection for the proposed study will be through Dr. Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument and face-to-face interviews, with a focus on semi-structured interview approach to provide the researcher with adequate leverage to not only allow the free flow of information as participants describe lived experiences, but also to ensure unclear responses are probed further through follow-up questions (Creswell, 2007). Current literature demonstrates that semi-structured interviews are non-standardized data collection tools mostly used in qualitative research studies, where the researcher exercises discretion to ask the questions in any particular manner and also to seek for clarifications if the responses provided are not clear (Englander, 2012).

Participants will first be requested to rate their leadership styles, preferences, characteristics and practices against Dr. Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument to provide the researcher with a glimpse of how leadership is practiced within Women’s Division II basketball settings (see appendix F for the instrument). Responses from the assessment instrument will be used to distinguish elements of servant leadership from those of non-servant leadership. It is plausible to note that the initial Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument as developed by Laub comprised “33 leadership assessment items, 27 organization assessment items, and six items that sought to assess job satisfaction” (Joseph & Winston, 2005). According to these authors, the instrument employs a Lickert-type scale anchored on both ends of the continuum by “strongly agree” and “strongly disagree” items; hence it’s a practical approach to distinguishing between servant leadership and non-servant leadership characteristics and practices. The other justification for using the instrument is predicated upon the fact that it has proved to be reliable and valid in measuring servant leadership attributes in previous studies (Joseph & Winston, 2005). Responses from the instrument will be shared with participants with the view to identifying the implications of their ratings upon the coaching practices and approaches.

The semi-structured interview will then be administered to participants not only for the purpose of reconstructing experiences about leadership and leadership styles preferred by these coaches for peak performance in sporting activities as well as in academic circles, but also to gain useful insights regarding the meaning and essence of one’s leadership practices and approaches in line with a phenomenological qualitative study. The researcher will be on the lookout to capture the most pertinent leadership elements as described by the coaches from one’s own experience (for the specific interview guide, see appendix G). The researcher will also be interested in availing participants a platform to reflect on how they rated themselves on Dr. Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment Scale and how this relates to their leadership experiences. The essence of this exercise will be to discover important leadership elements as described by the coaches through one’s lived experience and then comparing them with elements contained in Dr. Laub’s leadership assessment scale to come up with the best leadership style within the context of servant leadership. All the responses resulting from the interviews will be tape-recorded and then transcribed using available applications (Morse & Field, 1996), before being analyzed and interpreted to answer the study’s key research questions. The researcher will be at liberty to request for follow-up sessions with participants to seek clarification for unclear responses.

The justifications for using semi-structured interview guides to collect data in the proposed phenomenological study are many and varied. Since phenomenology is basically concerned with describing the meaning and essence of participants’ lived experience regarding an issue of interest (Laverty, 2003), semi-structured interviews are best suited for use to collect data in the proposed study owing to the fact that they provide a systematic way through which the researcher can talk and listen to people as they elaborate on lived experiences with regard to various leadership styles and how they influence peak performance among individuals as well as teams (Englander, 2012). Additionally, semi-structured interviews will allow the researcher adequate leverage to “explore, probe, and ask questions that will elucidate and illuminate that particular subject [and also] to build a conversation within a particular subject area, to word questions spontaneously, and to establish a conversational style but with a focus on a particular subject that has been predetermined” (Kajornboon, n.d. p. 6). This leverage cannot be attained by using other data collection techniques such as a questionnaire schedule, or structured interviews, thus the advantage.

The Seidman’s protocol will be used to schedule the interview visits, each approximately 45 minutes in length. Extant research demonstrates that “Seidman’s interview protocol provides a means for understanding the experience of other people and the meaning they make of that experience (Seidman, 1998, p. 3). Although the Seidman’s protocol recommends three interviews to collect data in phenomenological research (Mason, 2002), the researcher intends to conduct a single semi-structured interview with each participant due to time and financial constraints.

Not only does the Seidman’s interview protocol affords the opportunity for the respondent to review his or her current experience in depth and in the contextual framework that demonstrates the intricate factors that have brought the respondent to his or her present situation, hence allowing an adequate decision-making process to occur, but it also provides the researcher with a window into the respondent’s life which can assist them experience the events through the respondent’s eyes (Mason, 2002). This way, the researcher will be able to discover successful leadership characteristics and practices used by Women’s basketball coaches from the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) representing NCAA Division II while adopting Dr. Laub’s (1999) six characteristics of servant leadership found in his Organizational Leadership Assessment. It is plausible to mention that the administration of Dr. Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment instrument and the semi-structured interviews will be spaced approximately four days apart as that duration is close enough for the respondents to remember the responses from the preceding session but long enough to minimize the occurrence of idiosyncratic or eccentric responses from participants.

Pilot Study

Prior to the commencement of data collection, the researcher intends to conduct a pilot study with one female basketball coach from a local university to test the semi-structured interview guides. It is anticipated that the pilot study will provide the researcher with an opportunity to not only assess the research design and polish his interviewing skills, but also to receive helpful feedback from the participant regarding the research process and the interviewing process. The pilot study will also assist the researcher to know the exact time that each interview may take in actual data collection exercise and how he will go about framing the questions for ease of understanding. It is important to note that participation in the pilot study will be on voluntary basis and the participant will be accorded the same confidentiality and protection as participants in the actual study.

Instrumentation

Extant literature demonstrates that instrumentation in qualitative research studies is an extremely important undertaking as it allows researchers to refrain from personal biases and focus attention on abstracting the true lived experiences and perceptions of participants (van Mannen, 2001). The researcher will be an active participant in the research process in tandem with the phenomenological tradition (Creswell, 2007), The semi-structured interview guide will be formulated based on existing leadership literature that has been comprehensively evaluated in chapter two. Dr. Laub’s Leadership Assessment scale will be employed during the formulation of the data collection tool to ensure that it will have the capacity to investigate various leadership paradigms and approaches without undue influence or bias from the researcher.

The scale quantitatively measures the perceptions about leadership coaching in sports consisting of 66 survey questions evaluated on a 5 point Linkert scale. Key evaluation elements including “(0 = No response or Undecided, 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Agree, 4= Strongly Agree)” (Dr. Laub, 1999). The variables include “valuing people, developing people, building community, displaying authenticity, providing leadership, and sharing leadership” (Dr. Laub, 1999). In formulating the items to be included in the semi-structured interview guide, the researcher will adopt key elements to assist in investigating the best leadership style that may be used by coaches within Women’s NCAA Division II basketball context to achieve peak performance among individual student-athletes and teams. It is important to note that each of these attributes have been evaluated against existing literature and found to be important constructs underlying the definition of the servant leadership style.

The main objective of the proposed study is to set forth, through the perceptions of women’s NCAA Division II college basketball coaches’, potential explanations of what is the best leadership style among different leadership styles that can be used in NCAA Division II college basketball competitions to assist student athletes and teams to achieve peak performance. Being a phenomenological-oriented study, the major assumption is that if the best leadership style for women coaches in charge of NCAA Division II college basketball teams truly exists, then the experiences of the people most closely related to positions of leadership will add valuable insights and understanding to the essence of such a leadership style.

It is important to note that the underlying objective of a phenomenological study is to investigate the feelings, perceptions and life experiences of participants in relation to a particular phenomenon of interest by allowing them to express themselves in one’s own words in one’s own natural settings (van Manen, 2001). Consequently, instrumentation is fundamental in phenomenological research as it enables the researcher to collect data by focusing on abstracting the true perceptions and viewpoints of participants, consequently curtailing researcher bias (Englander, 2012). In the proposed study, the researcher intends to adopt important elements (valuing people, developing people, building community, displaying authenticity, providing leadership, and sharing leadership) included in Dr. Laub’s Leadership Assessment Scale and use them to guide the data collection exercise by comparing participants’ responses to the elements contained in the scale (Laub, 1999)

In validation, existing literature demonstrates that “making reference (anonymously, of course) to statements made in other interviews or to findings based on other data sources can be a good way to encourage respondents to express themselves…It is also useful for validating information already gathered” (Laforest, 2009 p. 4). Validation of the semi-structured interview guide will therefore be done by constructing the items in the interview guide around previous literature regarding leadership styles and women’s leadership in sports. A comprehensive review of leadership literature has already been done in the preceding chapter.

Validity and Reliability

Reliability in qualitative research refers to how consistently or dependably an evaluation of skill or knowledge produces similar results under varying conditions or environmental contexts, whereas is validity essentially refers to how a particular research instrument is able to measure what it is intended to evaluate (Creswell, 2007). There are two most important threats to validity as depicted in the literature – data collectors’ characteristics and data collectors’ bias (Englander, 2012). The researcher intends to deal with data collector bias by transcending exhibited subjective biases through audio taping participant responses and keeping detailed field notes which will also capture reflections of his own subjectivity. Additionally, the researcher will engage in a deliberate and focused attempt not only to voice prejudices and assumptions so that they can be considered openly and challenged, but also to exercise adequate introspection and analysis when listening to the participants’ lived experience regarding leadership styles and preferences (Laverty, 2003). The researcher will not engage other data interviewers to collect data from the filed, hence no instances of data collectors’ characteristics will arise.

Most qualitative studies require researchers to adequately address the arising validity concerns of trustworthiness of the research findings, especially in the context of credibility, confirmability, dependability, and transferability (Creswell, 2007). The study credibility will be demonstrated by ensuring that the research method and approaches are adhered to with the view to ensuring that a true picture of the phenomenon under study is presented. Thus, transferability will be ensured through provision of enough information on fieldwork activities to give a reader an idea if the prevailing environmental context is similar to another one, which he or she is aware of. It also shows if the study findings can reasonably be applied to another setting. Shenton (2004) notes that to address confirmability concerns, “steps must be taken to help ensure as far as possible that the work’s findings are the result of the experiences and ideas of the informants, rather than the characteristics and preferences of the researcher” (p. 72). Consequently, the researcher intends to use data triangulation and reduction strategies to minimize the adverse effects of investigator bias and hence achieve confirmability.

Data Analysis

To keep with the tradition of most phenomenological qualitative studies, the researcher intends to use the following steps to analyze data:

  1. transcribing the audiotapes to assist the researcher in getting immersed in the data and also to reorganize what the participants were saying and how they were saying it,
  2. reading the transcribed items severally while listening to the corresponding audiotape to guarantee accuracy of the transcribed tape, with the view of developing a better overall understanding of each participant’s lived experience regarding leadership styles and preferences,
  3. using van Manen’s (1990) selective reading approach (reading the text several times to note and highlight those statements that appear to be revealing common attributes about the phenomenon) to uncover the thematic aspects of the lived experiences,
  4. selecting each of these highlighted phrases and attempting to capture as comprehensively as possible what meaning the highlighted content conveyed,
  5. comparing the themes arising from each interview, with the view to discovering commonalities and variations,
  6. identifying the overall themes that best described the experiences of participants with regard to the best leadership attributes and preferences,
  7. writing down the themes and describing how the leadership attributes and preferences found in the themes are interrelated, and
  8. continuing to rewrite the themes and the relationship between the themes as accurately as possible until the adequately provide responses to the key research questions mentioned in chapter one of this proposal (Creswell, 2007; van Manen, 1990).

Summary

Chapter three not only provides a detailed report of the research method, methodology, population and sampling, data collection technique and instrumentation for the proposed study, but also deals with validity and reliability issues as well as data analysis. Appropriateness to the design was presented drawing on the theoretical and practical benefits and implications on organizational performance relative to various leadership styles for athletic coaches to achieve individual and team peak performance. Research questions investigated in the study to address the issues associated with establishing the best leadership style for Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams from qualitative data acquisition paradigm were featured to underline the direction to determine the impact on organizational performance. Additionally, this chapter describes the procedures and guidelines used by the researcher to gather data from four Women’s NCAA Division II coaches. Data analysis will be conducted to analyze and suggest conclusions to support decision-making to identify the best leadership style to provide Women’s NCAA Division II basketball coaches. The validity and reliability of the instruments will be inspected against the qualitative paradigm to ensure findings that will reflect leadership and how to achieve peak performance.

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Appendix A: Introduction Letter to University President

Date___________

Dear ___________________,

My name is Michael House. I am a candidate for a Doctorate of Educational Leadership degree at the University of Phoenix. I am currently conducting my dissertation research. My study is titled, “Coaching Leadership to Achieve Peak Performance” and involves qualitative research studies to discover the best leadership style among different leadership styles for coaches in sports for teams and individuals to achieve peak performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. Enclosed you will find a copy of my permission to conduct research.

Four NCAA Division II basketball coaches will receive a consent letter. The interview will take approximately 45 minutes of their time during non-working hours. All records will be kept confidential.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have further questions please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or (404) 447-9020.

Sincerely,

Michael House, Doctoral Candidate

University of Phoenix

Appendix B: Organization Informed Consent

By signing this consent form, I understand that Michael House (the researcher) is a candidate for a Doctorate of Educational Leadership degree at the University of Phoenix. I understand that the researcher is conducting a study “Coaching Leadership to Achieve Peak Performance.” The purpose of this qualitative research study is to discover the best leadership style among different leadership styles for coaches in sports for teams and individuals to achieve peak performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. I understand that the organization is entitled to a final copy of the research upon completion and approval of the study by the University of Phoenix.

  • I grant the researcher permission to contact the University’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach to request participation in the study.
  • The researcher acknowledges that no minors under the age of 18 will participate in this study.
  • I grant the researcher permission to collect data and store that data for the research. I acknowledge that the researcher may store copies of the data outside of the University.
  • The researcher acknowledges the research will be maintained in confidence and confine the use of the research to this study.
  • I grant the researcher to publish the finding with the University of Phoenix following the completion of the study.

Name: ___________________________________

Date: _____________

University Name: ___________________________________

Appendix C: Research Participant Letter of Introduction for Study

Dear Participant,

My name is Michael House. I am a doctoral student at University of Phoenix, in the Educational Leadership Program. My faculty mentor is Dr. Milton West, Ed.D. The purpose of this qualitative research study is to discover the best leadership style among different leadership styles for coaches in sports for teams and individuals to achieve peak performance among Women’s NCAA Division II college basketball teams. The results of this research study may reveal reasons whether or not there is a calling for new models of leadership in sport settings.

Participants of this study will include four NCAA Division II coaches. The participants will range in ethnicities. Participants will be asked to complete a survey that will relate to the variable of interest. Participants will participate by answering a series of semi-structured questions. I am the only person that will be able to access the results.

When the survey is ready to be taken, you will receive a notification via email. You will be asked to fill out a demographic survey and an open-ended questionnaire. Data collected from this study will provide data on the relationship between coaches’ different leadership styles and one’s consistency with the six characteristics of servant leadership using the Organizational Leadership Assessment, as framed, and defined by Dr. Jim Laub (1999).

I have enclosed an informed consent form to participate in this study. Please review and sign the informed consent. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or (404) 447-9020. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Sincerely,

Michael House, Doctoral Candidate

University of Phoenix

Appendix D: Research Participant Informed Consent Release

#________

To:

Michael House

2903 Tree Ridge Pkwy

Alpharetta, GA 30022

Cell: (404) 447-9020

Email: [email protected]

From:

Name: _____________________________________________________________

Address: ___________________________________________________________

Phone: _____________________________________________________________

Email: _____________________________________________________________

Subject: Informed Consent to Particpate in the Study Entitled “Coaching Leadership to Achieve Peak Performance”

By signing this form I acknowledge and understand the following:

  • The nature of the study.
  • Potential risk to me as a participant.
  • The means by which my identity will be kept confidential.
  • My personal anonymity will be upheld and guaranteed.
  • I may withdraw or decline from the study at any time without consequences.
  • The data will be stored in a confidential manner and locked areas for three years.
  • The data will be shredded after three years.
  • I am 18 years or older.
  • I am voluntarily participating in this qualitative research study.

By signing this form, I acknowledge the above information. If I have further questions regarding this study, I will contact the researcher of this study at [email protected]_____________________________________________________

Signature of Participant.

Appendix E: Confidentiality Letter

#_____

Date___________

Dear Research Study Participant,

Your participation in this study is strictly voluntarily and done on an anonymous basis. In order to observe research confidentiality the following requirements will be followed:

  • Your identity will be preserved.
  • The researcher will not use any details that may lead to your identity such as your name, school, or program you represent.
  • The data collection and analyzed in the study will enable the researcher to answer four research questions.
  • The results of the data may be published but your identity, school, or program will remain anonymous.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or (404) 447-9020. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Sincerely,

Michael House, Doctoral Candidate

University of Phoenix.

Appendix F: Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) Instrument

General

Code No…………………………………………………

  1. How long have you been involved in women’s NCAA Division II Coaching?
  2. How long have you stayed in your current position?
  3. Ethnicity…………………………………………..
  4. Region of coaching in PBC………………………………….
    1. What is your personal philosophy in basketball sport leadership?
    2. What are the major influences of your leadership style in coaching sports?
    3. What are your perceptions about how your leadership philosophy and style impacts your student-athletes performance?
    4. What are your perceptions on peak performance in coaching sports?
    5. Kindly reflect on any one season when you led your basketball team to excellence. How did you employ the following attributes:
    1. Displaying authenticity
    2. Valuing people
    3. Building community
    4. Providing leadership
    5. Sharing leadership
    6. Developing people
    1. Of the six attributes mentioned above, which attributes do you think are the most important in developing effective and efficient leadership styles in coaching sports? From your personal accounts and experience, why do you think the selected attributes are important in achieving peak performance for individual student-athletes and teams?
    2. From your own personal experience as a coach within the Women’s NCAA Division II context, kindly describe how the following attributes influence your leadership style in sports coaching:
    1. Clarity
    2. Motivation
    3. Reflection
    4. Persuasion
    5. Conceptualization
    6. Awareness
    7. Context
    8. Commitment
    1. What core values and motivational methods in leadership do you normally use to enhance your team toward peak performance?
    2. Kindly share your thoughts on some of the leadership styles that you think are effective in coaching basketball and why you think so.
    3. What, according to you, are the key success factors to leadership excellence in women’s basketball coaching?
    4. Do you think you relate well to others in your team and facilitate the building of community and team? Kindly explain.
    5. Are you open to input from other members of the team (e.g., criticism, challenges, compromise, and flexibility)? Kindly explain.
    6. In the basketball team you’re currently coaching, can you say with authority that you use intuition and foresight to see and plan for the future? Kindly explain.
    7. How do you empower other members of your team to take responsibility? Kindly explain
    8. Can you describe your leadership orientation as leading from a power of power and authority or leading from influence? Kindly explain

N.B. Probe questions should be posed to the participant if and when needed.