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Who makes a better leader: Captain or Coach?

Last year I had the honor of being selected to participate in Brown Bag’s leadership program, Empowerment University. As I personalized the learnings, I couldn’t stop thinking about my college days—college soccer days, to be exact. Vince Lombardi, Derek Jeter, Bill Belichick, Pat Summit and Michael Jordan filled my thoughts, and I started to wonder, “What do some of the best coaches and team captains of all time have in common?” They all possess great leadership traits. And who, in turn, makes the better leader? A captain or a coach?

We know a leader must assume different roles based on the situation. Sometimes, a leader has a technically capable team. Whether or not the team has an outstanding drive, the leader must show exemplary motivation. In these situations, the type of leader that is needed most is a team captain. I learned a lot about this type of leadership throughout my collegiate soccer career. Voluntarily attending 6 AM morning underclassman runs (although I was an upperclassman), not only made me a better athlete for both myself and my team, but it helped me gain the respect of my fellow teammates. It also proved to my team that I was willing to get into the trenches with them in order to get the job done. And my agency life today is really not that different. Our all-hands-on-deck mentality results in long nights and brilliant presentations. You aren’t just working for yourself; you are working for your team.

Other times, a leader may have a very dedicated team that lacks the technical capability. Then, the leader must draw upon their own past experience to provide technical guidance to the team while perhaps taking a less active role in the final product. In those situations, the type of leader that is needed is more like a coach. I’ve had lots of great coaches as well as managers. One boss early in my career coached me through a sticky situation by drawing on her previous conflict resolution experience. She was able to talk me through a conflict scenario and demonstrate what an ideal response looked like.

So, what is the answer to my initial question? “Who makes the better leader? A captain or a coach?” The answer is there is no right or wrong way to lead. The hallmark of a good leader is flexibility. A good leader plays the right role, at the right time—changing from team to team, project to project. And let’s face it, folks. Agency life is all about dynamic change and flexibility. This is why you tend to see a lot of great leaders survive and thrive not only in sports but in the agency world as well. I’m glad I am living the agency life—along with a side sports hustle. Becoming the best leader I can be will draw from all my experiences.

Featured Image credit: S and S Pix

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