The Art of Athlete Leadership: Identifying High-Quality Athlete Leadership at the Individual and Team Level Through Social Network Analysis

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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This research aimed to introduce social network analysis as a novel technique in sports teams to identify the attributes of high-quality athlete leadership, both at the individual and at the team level. Study 1 included 25 sports teams (N = 308 athletes) and focused on athletes’ general leadership quality. Study 2 comprised 21 sports teams (N = 267 athletes) and focused on athletes’ specific leadership quality as a task, motivational, social, and external leader. The extent to which athletes felt connected with their leader proved to be most predictive for athletes’ perceptions of that leader’s quality on each leadership role. Also at the team level, teams with higher athlete leadership quality were more strongly connected. We conclude that social network analysis constitutes a valuable tool to provide more insight in the attributes of high-quality leadership both at the individual and at the team level.

Katrien Fransen, Stef Van Puyenbroeck, Bert De Cuyper, Gert Vande Broek, and Filip Boen are with the Department of Kinesiology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. Todd M. Loughead is with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Norbert Vanbeselaere is with the Center for Social and Cultural Psychology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

Address author correspondence to Katrien Fransen at