A Tale of Two Coaches

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A Tale of Two Coaches

Robert Knight is most likely to manifest the scientific management leadership perspective. This paradigm of leadership relies on efficiency, which ensures group activity is controlled and predictable, with optimal productivity. That corresponds to Knight’s goals of coaching. Excellence and productivity are the top priorities for him. In his approach to followers, coach Knight is demanding and controlling. He applies control mechanisms to ensure that work is completed properly. Comparing to that, Mike Krzyzewski manifests spiritual leadership perspective. It relies on concern for the person and continuous self and group improvement. Coach Krzyzewski cares about each of his player as a father. Moreover, he pays much attention to building trusting relationships between the players and setting high moral standards for them. In his approach to followers, Mike Krzyzewski is inspiring and encouraging, building community. Respectively, Knight’s actions are more aligned with a managerial role, and Krzyzewski’s actions are more aligned with a leadership role.

The first coach obviously relies on the coercive power base. Knight uses common tools of coercion such as threats and punishments. In particular, he often threatens his players to take away their scholarships or drop them from the team. In addition, he punishes them by sitting them on the bench and throwing them out of practice. It results in a very cold and impoverished style of leadership. Comparing to that, the second coach relies on the referent power base. Mike Krzyzewski (or Coach K), being the heart and soul of college basketball, possesses particular charisma and appeal to college students. His power comes from basketball players’ admiration and respect, and strong identification with him. At the Duke University, Mike Krzyzewski often makes everyone feel good, and consequently has a lot of influence. However, he is not just likable; he is also an expert. He knows about the basketball a lot and knows how to coach a team.

Personal traits of each coach have a strong influence on their leadership. Robert Knight has a huge passion for excellence and is a perfectionist. He values discipline and has a need to dominate people. Accordingly, his leadership was passionate and demanding. His stubbornness transformed into persistence. Other leadership traits Knight possesses are self-confidence, determination and integrity. His self-confidence persuaded him that the system was the best way to play basketball. His determination helped him to persevere in the face of obstacles and to show dominance when his followers needed his direction. His integrity was revealed when he confirmed he adhered to a strong set of principles and could take responsibility for his actions. In terms of the five-factor personality model, coach Knight is rather neurotic as he has anger-control problem; he does not display much extraversion; he is not open to new ideas because he believes he knows everything better; he is not agreeable; but he is conscious and likely to be organized, show self-discipline and aim for achievement.

Meanwhile, Mike Krzyzewski is ongoing, flexible and adjustable as most leaders are. He credits much of his coaching success to his upbringing. He did not want to be a dictator; instead, he wanted to be a leader. Therefore, he was dedicated to his work as a coach and being a leader spent a lot of time on the establishment of trusting relationships with his followers. He tried to be on intimate terms with the team whenever possible. He valued discipline, and he taught it by investing in skills of his players. Besides, Krzyzewski gave his players freedom because he believed it was a leader’s responsibility to provide freedom. The team was a real family to him, so he had a paternalistic approach to coaching. As a leader, he was intelligent, self-confident, determinate and sociable. He tried to maintain pleasant relationships with others. His personality also fits the five-factor personality model as he displays extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. Meanwhile, his degree of neuroticism is low, which affects his leadership positively.

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