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In recent years, there has been a significant interest around leadership development practices within the field of management. Leadership development is particularly important within the highly competitive sport industry, where leadership performance is under constant and ever-increasing scrutiny. For sport organizations, strong leadership can be a source of significant competitive advantage, and hence, increased focus on leadership and investment into the development of talent has occurred. However, there has been a surprising lack of scholarly research into leadership and the associated processes within the sport management field, particularly from an Australian perspective. This paper addresses this gap as it examines the nature of experience-based leadership development practices within three of Australia’s leading professional sport organizations. Following a qualitative multicase study approach, the thematic analysis of 15 in-depth semistructured interviews with members of the senior executive of each case organization suggested that the national sport organizations placed significant emphasis on experience-based opportunities as a way of developing their workforce. Via the adoption of McCall’s experience-based leadership development framework, four main themes emerged: the importance of experience-based opportunities for leadership development; leadership development through involvement and exposure to experiences; networking opportunities gained from experienced-based exposure; and the relationship between on-the-job experience and formal leadership education. These findings extend our knowledge of current leadership development and practices implemented in national sport organizations and highlight the importance of effective leadership within highly competitive sport markets. Based on these findings, implications are provided for current practice illustrating the benefits that an experience-based approach to leadership development within sport organizations can have.
Frawley is with the Management Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia. Favaloro and Schulenkorf are with the University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia.