Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Perceived Leadership Behavior and Subordinates' Job Satisfaction in Midwestern NCAA Division III Athletic Departments

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

Perceived Leadership Behavior and Subordinates' Job Satisfaction in Midwestern NCAA Division III Athletic Departments

Article excerpt

Perceived Leadership Behavior and Subordinates' Job Satisfaction in Midwestern NCAA Division III Athletic Departments

Leadership continues to be a popular topic of analysis and debate. American culture has been obsessed with the development of future leaders as well as the enshrinement of successful leaders. The subculture of sport has long been viewed as a primary environment for the incubation and nurturing of tomorrow's leaders.

If one supports the view that leadership behaviors can be learned, then the environments in which such learning takes place need to be explored. One suggestion is that, in all societies, successful leaders typically develop largely by first learning to be good followers. One cannot understand the processes of leadership in its many variations without examining the relationships leaders have had with followers (Clark & Clark, 1990). Within American culture, the bulk of sport participation decidedly falls to youth and young adults, while the organization and management of their sport events is handled by adults. For this reason, most examples of leader-follower dyads within sport involve an adult-child relationship that reflects an imbalance of power which diminishes the opportunity to willingly choose to follow. Clark and Clark (1990) commented that the few feeble attempts to incorporate leadership training in secondary-school curricula have been isolated in extracurricular activities. This line of thought can be extrapolated into an argument that sport within the educational system has as one of its purposes the provision of a training ground for the leaders of tomorrow (albeit an inadequate training ground). It could then be hypothesized that leadership training within sport encourages athletic administrators to take for granted the imbalance of power implicit in positional authority, which could lead to a leadership style that is authoritarian in the tradition of the benevolent dictator.

The processes characterizing selection of athletic directors is fundamental to the development of this research problem within sport leadership. Fitzgerald, Sagaria, and Nelson (1994) posited a work history, or an array of occupational experiences, typifying athletic directors. The normative career trajectory derives from sequentially ordered, common positions beginning with a single or fixed portal and culminating in a single top position. The profession of sport management is widely populated by those who have entered athletic administration through the player-coach-manager route. The sport manager is thus regularly assumed to have a "jock" mentality. Reinforcing this assumption as well as the normative career pattern have been such typical practices as selecting a retired coach to become athletic director, regardless of aptitude or training (Williams & Miller, 1983).

Fitzgerald et. al. (1994) concluded that, unlike most other occupations, the athletic director position has as its portal not a first job, but instead a significant, socializing, cocurricular experience, through which leadership and athletic skills alike were cultivated and a glimpse, at least, into collegiate athletic administration was provided. This socializing experience was found to limit leadership experiences, just as the normative progression through positions limits the types and styles of leadership experienced. The socializing experience may well occur in similar environments. That fact, coupled with the dearth of formal preparation in sport management, raises a question about athletic administrators' understanding of situational leadership. Williams and Miller (1983) supported a thesis that athletic administrators have tended to come from the "university of hard knocks," starting as coaches and teachers and finding themselves promoted to administration. Such a model returns us to the premise that, within the normative career pattern, the athletic director's exposure to leadership prior to becoming a director always involved an adult-minor relationship dissimilar to the administrator/coach dyad. …

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