Leadership and social effectiveness in sport : conceptualizations and investigation of servant leadership and political skill.


It is widely accepted that leadership involves a process of intentional influence being exerted over others to affect outcomes. As the world of sport transitions to a more business-oriented ethos and ethical questions arise for sport organizations, ethical forms of leadership are emerging as effective models for sport leaders. Servant leadership is one such model, based on ethics and benevolent service to others and associated with numerous positive outcomes for subordinates and organizations. Due to a limited number of studies examining servant leadership within the contextual boundaries of sport, the first purpose of this study was to investigate servant leadership’s influence on leader effectiveness outcomes in interscholastic sport administration. The second purpose was to examine the role of political skill, a social effectiveness construct that measures how people influence others at work, as a possible moderator of servant leader effectiveness. Political skill comprises four dimensions: social astuteness, interpersonal influence, apparent sincerity, and networking ability. A multilevel model and regression analysis was used to test a national sample of interscholastic athletic directors (n = 250) and subsets of head coaches (n = 809). Online surveys were completed by athletic directors to rate their own political skill. Head coaches completed an online survey evaluating the servant leadership and leader effectiveness of athletic directors, as well as their own affective organizational commitment and job satisfaction. Findings revealed servant leadership was directly related to leader effectiveness, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction of subordinates. However, a negative interaction between servant leadership and political skill was found. Results support servant leadership as an effective model for interscholastic athletic directors that enhances commitment and job satisfaction of employees. Because of its associations with career success and other important outcomes, political skill is a topic in need of more research to better understand the implications of effective use of political skill for sport administrators, and, also for servant leaders.

Leadership. Social effectiveness.