Case Study Analysis 4: a Tale of Two Coaches

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Case Study Analysis Paper 4: A Tale of Two Coaches
Elizabeth Smith
Grand Canyon University: LDR 600
January 30, 2013

The path-goal theory describes the way leaders support their followers in achieving their goals by removing obstacles, clarifying expectations, and making the work more satisfying and rewarding. Leaders who adapt their style to the situation or the motivational needs of the follower can produce more successful outcomes (Northouse, 2010). The key considerations of this theoretical perspective will be analyzed in the leadership styles of two coaches, Coach Bobby Knight, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K.).

Coach Knight and Coach K. shared a similar follower directive; do not do anything that could be damaging to yourself or the program (Snook, Perlow, & Delacey 2005a). Aside from this rule, the coaches displayed dissimilar leadership approaches toward motivating their players.

Coach Knight had one goal for his players, to win, and he displayed one leadership style, directive. Coach Knight, known as, “The General” is an in-your-face- taskmaster who leads through discipline and intimidation (Silverthorne, 2006), he tears his players down to build then back up (Klein, 2006). Coach Knight initiated structure, instructed on what he wanted, and set clear standards of performance. The “General” pushed his players past skill development to playing their hardest at all times. Coach Knight’s style incorporates many of the key elements of path-goal theory: clarifying expectations to keep his players on track toward their goal, setting challenging goals to get the highest level of performance, and working with his players to prepare them through “meticulously planned and flawlessly executed drills” (Snook, Perlow, & Delacey, 2005b). A key element that may seem to be missing from Coach Knight’s approach was as a supporter. Coach Knight though passionate about his team and his team’s success, was not apparent in his show of concern for his player’s emotional well-being, but many of Knight’s former players love the man like a father (Silverthorne, 2006). A former player, Landon Turner, was paralyzed from a car accident and Bobby Knight worked tirelessly to help establish the Landon Turner Fund. When Turner returned to school following the accident, Coach Knight named him captain of the team he would never play for (Snook, Perlow, & Delacey, 2005b).

Whereas Coach Knight displayed a transactional leadership style built around rewards and punishment, Coach K. took a transformational approach. He believed his players were trying to do their best, were self-motivated and wanted to perform. His role was to empower them, remove obstacles from their way, and set high goals while maintaining strict standards of practice (Klein, 2006).

Coach K., who was more relationship oriented to Coach Knight’s task orientation, demonstrated an adaptive leadership style alternating from directive, “he taught discipline by investing heavily in drills and skills” (Snook, Perlow, & Delacey, 2005a), supportive, “he spent a large percentage of time getting inside a player’s head, understanding where the player is coming from” (Snook, Perlow, & Delacey, 2005a), participative, “he communicated up close and personal” (Snook, Perlow, & Delacey, 2005a) and expected his players to do the same with each other, and achievement-oriented, “Am I tough on the team? Absolutely. If they don’t show respect for the program, for the University, for one another, I’m all over them” (Snook, Perlow, & Delacey, 2005a).

The leader-member exchange theory (LMX) describes leadership as a process centered on the interactions between leaders and followers (Northouse, 2010). Followers, who believe in themselves and have confidence in their skills, become motivated to do better resulting in improved outcomes for the leader, follower, and the organization. To influence motivation, an internal behavior, leaders must...
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