Valued Insight or Act of Insubordination? How Context Shapes Coaches’ Perceptions of Challenge-Oriented Followership

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Marcus Gottlieb Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada

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Mark Eys Departments of Kinesiology and Physical Education and Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada

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James Hardy Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance, Bangor University, Bangor, United Kingdom

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Alex J. Benson Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada

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Effective leadership is a collaborative effort, requiring a degree of complementarity in how people enact roles of leadership and followership. Using a novel online vignette methodology, we experimentally tested how three contextual factors influenced coaches’ responses to challenge-oriented acts of followership, as well as investigated two potential mechanisms. Coaches (N = 232) watched videos of an athlete provided unsolicited challenge-oriented feedback to a coach. Videos varied by the (a) athlete’s status, (b) presence of third-party observers, and (c) stage of the decision-making process. Following the video, we assessed coaches’ evaluations of the athlete. Challenge-oriented followership was perceived more favorably when enacted by an athlete in one-on-one (vs. in a group) and before a decision has been reached (vs. after a decision is reached). Coaches may appreciate proactivity from athletes in positions of followership, but challenge-oriented followership behaviors enacted at the wrong time and place can elicit negative reactions.

Benson (abenson3@uwo.ca) is corresponding author, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5978-065X

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