Category: Confidence

Positive Self-Talk and Flow

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

Close your eyes for a second and think of a time when you were at your best in a competition or performance. Put yourself back into that mindset and recall the feelings you experienced. Remember your thoughts from that moment. Did you know exactly what you wanted to achieve? Did you feel that you were equipped with the skills to achieve it? Did time seem to slow down? Did you feel completely in control? Were you concentrated solely on the task in front of you? Did you seem to stop judging yourself?  Were you enjoying yourself completely?

If you said yes to most or all of these questions, you may have experienced a psychological state called flow. Flow is an elusive psychological phenomenon that can occur during peak performance of any kind, from playing an instrument, to dancing, working, or exercising. During a flow experience, you have a deep sense of enjoyment and time seems to pass more slowly. Flow is that sort of optimal experience when you feel entirely in tune with your body and as if you are able to accomplish anything (Csikszenthmihalyi, 1990).

The idea of flow developed out of the positive psychology field and with it the idea that thinking positively can influence how you achieve or approach a flow state.  Because flow is a psychological state, developing the mental skill of positive self-talk can help lead you to a psychological state approaching or achieving flow.   In a recent study, elite golfers were interviewed about their flow experiences. They each acknowledged that nothing negative was on their mind and that they felt very confident when experiencing a flow state. They reported thinking to themselves that they could handle any challenge that presented itself and that they were doing great (Swann, Keegan, Crust, & Piggott, 2015). These phrases are examples of positive self-talk.

Positive self-talk is about mentally motivating and encouraging yourself as opposed to letting that critical voice inside your head get the best of you. We all have it, that little nagging voice inside our heads telling us that we will never succeed. By using positive self-talk, we turn those negative thoughts around and prevent them from making us feel badly about ourselves.

Positive self-talk is a powerful mental skill that not only can change your attitude, but also your performance. Let’s say, for example, a soccer player misses an easy shot on goal. The ball goes flying over the net, nowhere near where she planned for it to go. She has two potential paths she can take here: 1) She can think, Wow, that was such a dumb move! I can’t believe I missed it. I must be such a horrible player; or 2) She can think, Wow, that didn’t go as planned, but I’ve been doing great the rest of the game. That just shows I have some room for improvement in practice. It is clear that the second path would be more productive in both the short and long term. In the short term, the second path allows her to focus on the positive aspects of her game, which can help keep her confidence and energy levels high. In the longer term, the second path allows her to identify specific areas she can improve upon at a later time, which will aid her performance in the long run.

In this example, using positive self-talk is uplifting and productive and is related to a flow state. Positive self-talk supports you by providing you with confidence to perform at your best, whereas negative self-talk can serve to eat away at that confidence. Remember, flow can occur when you think positively and you feel that nothing is standing in your way. Using positive self-talk can help enhance your confidence and get you feeling closer to the elusive experience of flow, even though achieving flow during every performance is unrealistic. As Maya Angelou said, “if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Stay Productive. Stay Confident. Stay Positive.

 

References:

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Swann, C., Keegan, R. J., Crust, L., & Piggott, D. (2015). Psychological States Underlying Excellent Performance in Professional Golfers: “Letting it Happen” vs. “Making it Happen.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise 23. doi:10.1016.j.psychsport.2015.10.008.

 

 

 

Return to Sport-Post Injury

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Lets face it, being injured stinks; especially as an athlete. If you’re a competitive athlete and have experience with injuries, you’re no stranger to the fact that the physical pain you feel is just a small part of the long-term pain that lies ahead in the path to a full recovery (Goldberg, 2016). We’ve all heard the phrase, “Just walk it off, you’ll be fine.” Coaches and parents may be insensitive or unaware as to how severe injuries may be, and at times push athletes to work through the pain (Groom, 2013). However, this unawareness has the potential to be detrimental to an athlete’s future – both physically and mentally. It is extremely important to educate coaches and parents on the important role that a healthy mentality plays in an athlete’s recovery and  performance.

Many athletes become overwhelmed by a variety of internal and external losses when they are sidelined for an injury. Without their sport and the time in their life it consumes, they suddenly have a void in trying to find that “sense of self” they now have to try to fill (Goldberg, 2016). In most cases, athletes commit so much of their free time to their sport that other non-athletic activities seem out of place, and an injury can make this newfound “void” seem even worse. It’s important that the athlete finds some sort of activity to take on with which they can occupy themselves. Not doing so can open the door to bad habits, such as unnecessarily reducing their caloric-intake (as they may feel they aren’t working out and “don’t deserve” to eat (Putukian, 2014). This can quickly escalate into a bigger problem of an emerging eating disorder or a negative view of their body. And that’s on top of concerns about recovering from the injury they are dealing with. In most cases, injured athletes experience some sort of depression which can evolve into an issue that may persist throughout their lives. This is another reason it is extremely important for injured athletes to get the help they need and are physically and mentally healthy before returning to play.

One of the most difficult, and now seemingly more common issues for injured athletes to come back from is a concussion. With a physical injury such as a break, tear, or strain, there is often a set path to recovery and rehabilitation. However, with concussions, the timeline for recovery and being able to return to sport is less known (Putukian, 2014). Not only are these athletes physically injured, but many athletes experience slower cognitive functioning in daily activities, making it even more frustrating to process and work through recovery. Often, those suffering from a concussion experience a wide range of new emotions in addition to difficulties in cognitive functioning. Given these compounded factors, it is not uncommon for student-athletes to see a decline in their academic performance as well. Poorer grades can be even more emotionally taxing, as many student-athletes are driven to excel in many areas of their lives – sport and otherwise. One of the most difficult aspects for athletes recovering from a concussion is having to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else compete. Physically, they feel able to compete, but it can be far more difficult coming to grips with a brain injury.

Physical injury or not, it’s important not to just “sit around and wait” for a full recovery. It is important for athletes, coaches, parents and care teams to pay close attention to treating the emotional and mental aspects that play into every recovery. Every day we are learning more and more about the recovery process and its overall impact on injured athletes. Coaches and Athletic Trainers are being educated on the best ways to treat and help care for athletes post-injury. The bar is being raised, which is good news for injured athletes in the future. For the athlete, it will take the determination and confidence to reach out for help on thei r path to recovery and reestablishing that sense of self. After all, it is a team effort.

 

References:

Goldberg, A. (2016, June 10). Rebounding from Injuries. Retrieved January 18, 2017, from https://www.competitivedge.com/rebounding-injuries-0

Groom, T. (2013, March 08). The psychology of returning to sport after injury. Retrieved January 18, 2017, from http://www.running-physio.com/psychology/

Weiss, W. M. (2017). Mentally Preparing Athletes to Return to Play Following Injury. Retrieved January 18, 2017, from http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resources/injury-rehabilitation/mentally-preparing-athletes-to-return-to-play-following-injury/

Putukian, M. (2014). Mind, Body and Sport: How being injured affects mental health | NCAA.org – The Official Site of the NCAA. Retrieved from http://www.ncaa.org/health-and-safety/sport-science-institute/mind-body-and-sport-how-being-injured-affects-mental-health

 

 

 

The Importance of Deliberate Practice

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Practice makes perfect. If you’re an athlete, you’ve probably heard this a few thousand times throughout your life. Practice is necessary to improve health, build confidence, gain a better understanding of rules and regulations, and also try out new techniques. But how can practice really bring out peak performance? When athletes partake in “deliberate practice,” they are more in tune with their bodies and see results.

Deliberate practice relates to the quality of the practice time. It focuses on specific goals of improving performance by participating in highly structured activities relating to that sport (Barr, 2016). It may be easy to just “go through the motions” of practice, but if your goal is to gain skills and become an elite athlete, engaging in deliberate practice should be one of your objectives. Dr. Janet Starkes, a kinesiology professor at McMaster University, and colleagues recently concluded a study dating back almost three decades on deliberate practice, and state: “The core of our work has alluded to the important role that self-focused attention plays in helping skilled athletes to refine inefficient movement during deliberate practice.” This self-focus is one of the main factors in developing elite athletes. Her work also suggests that something called “reflective somatic awareness” plays an important role in this process. By learning to feel and understand the body, you will increase your awareness to consciously and deliberately improve the movements within your sport.

So how can we engage in deliberate practice? There are a few steps to take. First, you must be motivated to improve your performance and continuously exert an effort to be better. Second, use your pre-existing knowledge to help you understand the task at hand so you are performing movements properly. Third, ask your coach to give you immediate and informative feedback after your performance so you know what went well and what needs improvement. Lastly, you should repeatedly perform the same or similar tasks to increase your awareness (Clear, 2016). Following these steps will help you partake in deliberate practice and improve your overall performance!

 

References:
Barr, C. (2016). Deliberate Practice: What It Is and Why You Need It.
Clear, J. (2016). The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice | James Clear.
Starkes, J. (2016). Toward an explanation of continuous improvement in expert athletes: The role of consciousness in deliberate practice. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 46(6), 666-675. Retrieved November 15, 2016.

Be Confident! Ok, But… How?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

It’s go time. This is where you need to perform at your very best. Your team is counting on you. Even you’re counting on you. But, you’re not exactly sure you can do it. Sure, you’ve practiced more than ever before and you really want to do well, but there’s always a chance you’ll fail. You’re nervous.

So, what do people tell you?

“Be confident!”

And you probably respond with something like:

“Perfect! That’s exactly what I need: to be confident. Awesome… but, how do I be confident, exactly?”

There are actually many ways to build your confidence. As you’ll see in this video from TED-Ed, confidence is built upon body language, having the right mindset, and turning optimistic thoughts into courageous action. In one of the most popular TED talks, given by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, the way we carry our bodies influences how we feel about ourselves. By striking a powerful pose with limbs outstretched and head held high, a person can stimulate behavioral hormones, like testosterone, in their endocrine system and, subsequently, affect how they approach challenging situations.

Our mindset also affects how confident we feel. When it comes to abilities and challenges some of us have a fixed mindset while others have a growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset can see their talents as just that, fixed. There’s nothing they can do to improve upon them; it’s as if their talents are predetermined before they’re even born. In contrast, those with a growth mindset understand that talents take effort and time to develop, but that they can be developed and improved upon. Having a growth mindset means adopting a learning process when faced with challenges. It could be that you don’t succeed, but any mistakes you make will result in a learning experience and make you even better in the future. And when you get better, you develop into a more confident person.

Finally, a simple but powerful aspect of confidence is belief. If you believe in yourself and your abilities, amazing things can happen. Confidence may be the giant final goal, but belief is the first baby step. Coupled with the growth mindset, if you belief in yourself you’re on the right path to gaining confidence through successful accomplishments sustained positive self-esteem.

 

For a colorful and inspiring overview of how to boost your confidence, watch the video below!

 

 

How We Show Up Matters

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Seconds tick by on the clock like hours.  It feels like the game is already over.  You’re down – both in score and morale.  So what’s the point?  Why bother?  Why keep playing?

 Well, as Yogi Berra once put it, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Thanks Yogi, but we all know how difficult it can be in these moments to maintain optimism and enthusiasm – especially when no one else around us is doing it either.  So what can we do about it?

In any given event, our emotions are going to get triggered.  It’s natural to have an immediate knee-jerk (emotional) reaction.  In these situations, we tend to get hooked and caught up in the emotions themselves rather than focusing on what’s happening in the present moment and our stake in the outcome.  However, those who focus more on their personal control within the situation, and hence, their outward reaction and response, tend to outperform those who focus on the negative (or who allow surrounding negativity to impact their state of being).  In order to be more successful in stressful or critical moments, it’s important to remember 3 key things:

Awareness

Your personal awareness and emotional intelligence is crucial.  We describe emotional intelligence as four interlocking quadrants: 1. Knowing and understanding our own emotions, 2. Knowing and understanding the emotions of others, 3. Managing ourselves and our reactions and 4. Managing our relationships with others.

The greater awareness we have about ourselves and others, the better chance we have at responding to the situation in a way that is more positive and productive.

Acceptance

Embracing that we’re going to be confronted by unexpected circumstances or unfavorable events at any given point in time is key in continuing to shape the response and outcome we truly want.

“Every great change is preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra

Accepting what has already happened can actually offer us an emotional release and an opportunity.  In these moments, if we’re able to stop, reflect and then shift our focus to the control we do have, we decrease our chances of becoming emotionally hooked on past events or mistakes and distracted from the present moment.  At that point, we can focus on our control in the next moments.

And Action

We have an incredible amount of control over the outcome of any given situation – even if it doesn’t feel that way.  When we’re thoughtful and intentional about our outward reactions and the actions we take – despite our emotions – we have a better chance of shifting the outcome in our favor.  Doing so redirects our energy to focus on the control that we have – something far more desirable than feeling powerless and defeated.  It gives us greater confidence in our abilities and helps us to play the game how we want in the present moment (rather than dwelling on the past).  Taking action allows us to move forward.

Overall, it’s important to remember that even if we’re feeling a certain way (e.g., frustrated, exhausted, anxious, etc.), we can still act how we want.  We can show up as our best self, speaking in ways that are positive, engaging with others in ways that are beneficial, and behaving in ways that are going to increase our chances of getting the outcome we want.

Sometimes, we have the odds against us.  But, if we’re pessimistic and focus on what we cannot control, we will be surely defeated without a chance.  We cannot control the hardball thrown at us or the rise of our emotions when we get a strike, AND we can still choose how we want to step up to the plate again, focusing on our swing instead of the score.

mental train copy

 

 

Embrace Your Shake Like Phil Hansen

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Phil Hansen was going to school to become an artist when he discovered something that he thought would end his career before it even began. He had developed a shake in his hand from using pointillism—a painting technique in which small dots are applied in patterns to form a single image. Because he could no longer create art through his preferred method, he decided to drop art school and art altogether. However, years later he decided to return to art and saw a doctor about his condition. The doctor changed his life with a single question: “Why don’t you just embrace the shake?”

Hansen’s TED talk describes his inspiring journey to find his new calling through art: “And I realized, if I ever wanted my creativity back, I had to quit trying so hard to think outside of the box and get back into it.” Athletes can mirror this idea by spending time going back to the beginning and thinking about what aspects of their sport made them fall in love with it in the first place. More importantly, this talk—and what we can all take from it—is about remembering what makes us unique and what strengths we have.

As his talk comes to a close, Hansen professes: “Limitations may be the most unlikely of places to harness creativity, but perhaps one of the best ways to get ourselves out of ruts, rethink categories, and challenge accepted norms. And instead of telling each other to seize the day, maybe we can remind ourselves every day to seize the limitation.”

Everyone has a “shake” or weakness, and although this insecurity may seem like a flaw it is simply something that makes you unique. However, because “shakes” are unique to each individual, it may seem as though you are the only one with that particular “shake.” Sometimes, that results in athletes defying their shakes in the attempt to be “normal.” This perspective is understandable considering technicalities in sports require athletes to follow certain rules and regulations. As a result, it is hard for them to both accept and figure out an alternate path to take toward the designated goal. Although taking another route for the sport or skill they are working toward will be an adjustment, it will make them a stronger athlete with stronger weaknesses.

Athletes have the ability to embrace whatever “shakes” they have just like Phil Hansen. Rather than letting the shake define them, athletes can define it for themselves and use it as a performance enhancement they never knew they had. In other words they can seize the limitation in their shake. Believe in what makes you different; never give up on something just because it is not viewed as typical. Most importantly, embrace your shake.

See Hansen’s inspiring talk here.

 

 

Want Lower Stress? Keep Free Rolling like Jordan Spieth

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Free RollingBy: Premier Intern Staff

 

This weekend we look to our neighbors to the east, Wisconsin, as the final men’s golf Major Championship commences. Teeing off at 2:20pm CST today in the PGA Championship include Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked golfers in the world, respectively. There has been a lot of talk about Spieth in 2015 as he has emerged as a top tier golfer and amassed the first two majors in 2015. More talk piled up as he went for his third Major Championship, the Open Championship, back in mid-July. He missed a tie for the lead by just one stroke, which would have led him into a four-hole playoff with the other leaders. Even so, throughout his tournaments following the Masters, Spieth and his caddy, Michael Greller, have used one phrase to keep them going: free rolling. In numerous interviews Spieth has credited this “free rolling” as a way to alleviate stress during the rounds.

In early April, Spieth—just 21 at the time—had won his first Major Championship and was embarking on the second. The pressure was off. He had already won one of the majors and so he had the confidence that he could perform similarly at the U.S. Open. In order to maintain his peak performance, Spieth and Greller kept free rolling—keeping themselves as relaxed as possible. This free rolling eventually led Spieth to a second consecutive Major Championship and a second place finish in the third major of the year.

Spieth and Greller’s motto is a macrocosm for any athlete in any endeavor. Undeniably, if you’re an athlete, you’ve experienced success at least one time in your life. Don’t just leave your successes in the past—use them to enhance your future. At your next practice, game, competition, etc. remember your previous successes and use that emotion to help fuel your performance in that moment. If you trust your training, visualize yourself achieving your goals, and keep “free rolling”, you may very well achieve what you’ve been working for.

In the Midst of the Stanley Cup, the Lightning’s Home Ice Advantage Should Not be Overlooked

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

In a comeback victory last night, the Chicago Blackhawks took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals from the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1. The two teams will face off again Saturday night in Tampa for Game 2 of the seven game series. Both teams showed promise as the Lightning dominated for the first period and the Blackhawks controlled the third. The Cup could go either way, so we wanted to take a look at one advantage that is out of either team’s control: home field advantage (or, in the case of hockey, home ice advantage).

With 108 points in the regular season compared to Chicago’s 102, the Tampa Bay Lightning secured home ice advantage for the series, which will give them an upper hand if the series goes five or seven games. Playing at home can benefit players because it may make them more relaxed than if they were on the road. They are in a place that is comfortable and secure—players are able to sleep in their own homes and prepare in their own locker rooms and clubhouses.

Also, when at home, players are playing in front of their own fans. While this may not seem like it has a profound impact on players, think about 20,000 people cheering you on. Or, if you’re the away team, 20,000 people being so silent when you’ve just scored that you could hear a pin drop. With the Chicago win last night, if you’re a Blackhawks fan, you might scoff and say that the fans are unimportant and therefore the Lightning don’t have an edge, but not many of you have stood in front of thousands of people screaming for your success and against your opponent’s. To come back in the third period last night, Chicago used a significant amount of mental focus and determination in addition to the X’s and O’s to overcome the crowd atmosphere cheering against them and take Game 1 of the series.

Premier’s own Dr. Alexandra Wagener was on Minnesota’s local CBS station, WCCO, to discuss why fans are so crucial to a home team’s success:

“We know that we are more aggressive, we have more motivation and we are actually more confident when we’re at home,” she said. “There’s also research to show that when we have the crowd behind us it can influence referee calls to an extent. Be supportive, be excited, and be in the moment. When the players look up, see people on their feet, we see them chanting and cheering—it can provide that extra edge to skate a little stronger.”

In fact, the presence of fans is so important to the Lightning, that this year they are imposing a new rule: All fans sitting in “premium” areas are required to wear Lightning paraphernalia or neutral clothing—absolutely no Blackhawks apparel allowed. Bill Wicket, the Lightning’s Executive Vice President for Communications, told the New York Times that the team is trying to create a “hometown environment for the Lightning players and our season-ticket holders.”

The assistance that fans provide as Dr. Wagener has previously stated helps solidify this fact. The Lightning organization has recognized the fans’ importance, so they are trying to do whatever they can in order to give their team the best shot at winning the Cup. Teams are putting more stock into the mental game, not just one-on-one sessions or workshops with coaches, but trying to channel group mentality within the stadium as well.

What do you think? Should the Lightning restrict what fans wear, and what impact does this rule have on the players? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook!

 

 

 

 

5 Sport Psychology Skills Every Coach Should Know

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

Leadership

One of the most important skills that a coach can develop is personal leadership. As a coach, you are put into a role that deems a significant amount of guidance and responsibility. Athletes will observe all your positive attributes, but also your downfalls. Developing a set of leadership skills that will help athletes improve both in sport and in personal endeavors is crucial.

“Make no doubt about it, athletes not only need effective leadership, they also desire it. Young people want consistent parameters, direction, order structure, organization and discipline. They need it whether they know it or not. It gives them security, and that, in turn, helps them to be more confident.” (Dorfman, 2003)

Blog: “Qualities of a quality leader”

Imagery

Imagery has been the focus of a great deal of research over the recent years. Results consistently lead us to believe that successful implementation of imagery techniques have a direct and positive effect on sport performance. By developing these techniques, we enable our athletes to experience a variety of competition settings mentally so that when the time comes they will be prepared to perform at their highest level.

“Although it is still not clear why, imagery frequently predicts behaviors: Imagining disaster or success at work, in relationships, or in sport often leads to that outcome. Taking control of our imaginations is vital if we are to manage our behavior effectively, particularly in sport.”

Self-confidence

Even without research, most would argue the importance of confidence in sport and in life. It is a feeling that when experienced can make or break ones performance. Feeling confident gives an athlete the ability to believe in “I can” rather than “I can’t” which often times determines whether that belief becomes a reality.

Coaches can help develop athlete’s confidence by providing positive feedback when the athlete performs well and conversely, in the instances where athletes are not performing their best. Sometimes it is equally or more important to build an athletes confidence when they are struggling. Providing constructive criticism can help athletes learn how to improve, but giving them the confidence to know they can improve is more important yet.

Self-talk

A study conducted by David Tod, James Hardy, and Emily Oliver analyzed 47 studies that assessed the relationship between self-talk and performance. The study suggested positive effects on performance by athletes who were using various forms of self-talk. Similar to imagery, often times what we think has a direct effect on our behavior. If we focus on the thoughts that go through our head on our regular basis, we can start to identify the negative thoughts that have potential to lead us to decreased performance. On the other hand, we will notice self-talk that is positive and constructive and will be able to implement those types of thoughts more often.

As a coach, teaching athletes how to implement positive self-talk will benefit them (and the team as a whole). Self-talk can increase performance and will help the athletes develop a strong sense of self worth that is an invaluable skill outside of competition as well.

Blog: “Learn to listen to yourself”

Goal Setting

Goal setting can be a great way to get the team on board and working toward a common outcome or result. It is important to be SMART when setting goals with your team. Check our Premier Sport Psychology’s recent blog post on setting goals titled “He Shoots, He Scores! Setting Goals, Not Just Scoring Them”

S – Specific – Be very clear in your mind exactly what the goal relates to. If there are several aspects, create multiple goals.
M – Measurable – Any goal set should be capable of being measure in some way. If there is no way to measure, there is no way to assess progress. If assessing Mental Skills, a subjective measuring scale can be used, as long as the same scale is used every time.
A – Adjustable – Goal setting is a dynamic process and goals need to be altered at times. If your teams’ progress is faster or slower than you had originally planned, goals will need to be changed to reflect this.
R – Realistic – It is essential to set challenging goals, but not so challenging you never achieve them. As a simple rule, set goals that are sufficiently beyond your present ability to force hard work and persistence, but not so challenging they are unrealistic. Use your best judgment for what is and is not realistic for your teams.
T – Time-based – All goals should have a specific time period. Without a target date, there is little motivation for the athletes to achieve the goal. There are three time periods for goal setting: short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term.

 

References:

Bull, S., Albinson, J., & Shambrook, C. (1996). The mental game plan: Getting psyched for sport. Eastbourne: Sports Dynamics.

Dorfman, H. (2003). Leadership and Power(s). In Coaching the mental game: Leadership philosophies and strategies for peak performance in sports, and everyday life (p. 3). Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing.

Morris, T., Spittle, M., & Watt, A. (2005). Imagery in sport. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Tod, D., James, H., & Oliver, E. (2011). Effects of Self-Talk: A Systematic Review. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 666-687.

 

 

Qualities of a Quality Leader

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

In preparation for writing this blog I researched leadership heavily. I did so with the intent to find correlations and predictions of leadership abilities from various factors. I wanted to find out if there were certain traits or characteristics that really defined the best leader. Meta-analysis after meta-analysis I kept stumbling upon the same answer, one that I had not expected. The answer that there was not one definitive answer. While one analysis will point to a certain personality type, another will support quite the opposite. Other research shows that levels of motivation are the most important character trait but can quickly countered by another arguing the importance of social skills. So what is it that really makes a great leader? What is it that gives one person the ability to influence over another? Why do some do so verbally and others lead by example? There is so much to learn about leadership on a multitude of levels. As complex and depth full as the research is, it does seem to show some trends. The following are qualities that seem to surface over and over again in academic papers.

Problem-Solving Skills

Leaders see problems coming, and they immediately begin processing the best solutions. Whether it is in sports, business, or personal life, conflict is a realistic part of our everyday lives and instead of shying away from adversity, leaders prepare for it. They understand that problems, when confronted with the proper solutions, can make the whole more powerful then it was to begin with.

Confidence

Leaders exude confidence and self awareness. They are able to tell you what their strengths are, and more importantly what their weaknesses are. Having a strong sense of who you are and who you are not is demonstrated in the words and actions of leaders.

Expertise

The knowledge and experience to reassure those around you that for whatever situation presents itself, you will have a proper response. Some of the best examples of this characteristic can be seen in professional sports. Think of some of the best coaches from a variety of different sports, chances are many of them have experience in the sport and have been coaching for quite some time. The combination of having knowledge and experience in your leadership position gives both you, and those following you, a sense of control.

Personality

There has been a lot of controversy over what specific personality traits represent the best leader. So to simplify this, lets just say this: leaders have powerful personalities. They have personalities that encompass what it means to have character. Having empathy, loyalty, and selflessness, among other things. Another important personality trait is needed: caring about people. In order to be a leader you must be leading a group of people. You can not be a leader if you do not have people following you. In this respect, caring about a group outside of yourself is necessary. Overall, leaders may act and speak in different ways and have vastly different personalities, but regardless of those differences, their personality stands out from others.

Motivation

Leaders want to make a difference, and they find the initiative to do so. There is a quote “those who have a why can deal with any how.” This is the mission statement engraved in a leaders mind. They know what they want to do, and will find a way to do whatever it takes to get there. Leaders have focused motivation on the intended goal, and will inspire others to have the same.

Consistent

One of the hardest things for anyone to achieve is consistency. As humans, we encounter a wide range of feelings and experiences. To be able to handle all those things in a consistent manner is tough! However, the best leaders do so. This allows them to remain focused and accountable.

Vision

Similar to confidence, leaders believe in what they are trying to accomplish. Having a vision of what they want to do and being contagious in their enthusiasm for it is something that comes naturally for a leader. The vision comes from an inner drive and others can sense that. Leaders stand by the hard-fast rule that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Often times this vision is crystal clear, and other times only the end result is clear. Whatever the case, leaders are able to find a way to get to the result, even if that means adjusting the plan to do so along the way.

Trustworthy

This quality is not always present, but it highly desirable in a leader. If you can listen to them and believe every word that they say is true, it allows the process as a whole to move more fluently. Leaders that have this genuine intent allow others to also be open and honest. When everyone is working in the same direction for the right reasons, the group as a whole can accomplish a great deal.

So let’s review. While there is no one defining characteristic that predicts the best leaders, there have been quite a few that seem to continuously present themselves in research. By being mindful of, and developing the skills above, it seems that someone would be traveling in the right direction. It may not ensure that you will be the world’s next best leader, but it sure gives you a foundation to be in the running.