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  • Writer's pictureAthletes In The Zone


Case study

The client in this study was a British University sports department. They had problems with retention of staff, motivation, absenteeism, and burnout/mental health. They were also involved in daily conflicts with the management and themselves.

To address these problems, we decided to teach the management team a different type of leadership style. There is a wealth of evidence that suggests High-performance cultures can be created if the leaders adopt certain kinds of leadership styles. The most notable is transformational leadership which has been linked to confidence, effort, perceived competence, task and team cohesion, reductions in aggressive behaviours, enjoyment, organisational citizen behaviours, satisfaction, intrinsic motivation and performance. To explain these findings leadership scholars have suggested leaders who use a transformational style of leadership influence their followers by inducing the mechanisms associated with intrinsic motivation, commitment, psychological empowerment, sacrifice and needs satisfaction. Servant and ethical leadership have also been successful in developing high-performance teams such as the Chicago bulls and the New Zealand rugby teams. In business, numerous organisations adopt these styles of leadership to transform their organisation into high-performance teams. It is worth noting here developing good people with good values, attitudes and behaviours are perhaps the most important contributor to improving performance and productivity.

We chose to teach a servant and ethical leadership style of leadership to the management team because these leadership styles help develop good people. These styles of leadership draw from positive psychology and they focus on a vision where the values and attitudes are compassion, altruism, empathy, integrity, trust, courage, hope, perseverance, gratitude. The aim was to develop an ethical values-based culture. When people in an organisation have shared values have an awareness of ethical values there is a dramatic reduction in conflict. The importance of ethical leadership in organisations has been increasingly recognised, especially as a shield against unethical employee behaviours and corporate misconducts. The importance of servant leadership is its effects on promoting the personal growth and well-being of others and emphasises the needs of the employees and the moral high ground of doing “good.” Servant leadership creates a culture of service and an environment of trust and openness between leader and follower because it places service to others ahead of personal power and control. This style of leadership has contributed to a happier and more productive work environment that is characterised by enhanced individual and organisational performance.

In addition to this approach, we also focused on developing a strength-based organisation. By strength-based organisations we mean organisations that emphasise the importance of selecting and placing individuals in positions that provide them with daily opportunities to work within their areas of strength, and focus growth and development around objectively assessed talents. This technique draws upon the positive psychology philosophical framework we employ.

The results of this intervention over six years was the following:

1. A reduction in conflict and aggressive behaviours.

2. Increase ineffective communication

3. 100% decrease absenteeism

4. 100% staff retention

5. Increase in intrinsic motivation

6. Increase in performance and productivity

7. Increase in positive emotions, optimism and happiness.

8. Increase in well-being.

In summary, our purpose was to help people find meaning and connection at work through greater self-awareness; by restoring and building optimism, confidence and hope; by promoting transparent relationships and decision making that builds trust and commitment among followers; and by fostering inclusive structures and positive ethical climates.

When people directing their energy and effort in alignment with wholesome thoughts and feelings, such as lovingkindness, compassion, generosity, joy, gratitude, and openness. you achieve high performance.

Choosing the right people and the right leadership for an organisation is extremely important. Leadership that focuses on ethical values and the needs and growth of others rests at the core of successful organisations.

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