Widefield High School Cross Country

WHSXC Leadership Seminar

Part One: What is a leader?

The simplest definition of a leader is anyone who has people following him/her.

"If you want to know whether or not you are a leader, look behind you. If people are following you, you are a leader."

Being a leader does not necessarily mean you are leading people in a positive direction!

Leaders can be good or bad, positive or negative, empowering or disempowering.

Examples: Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler

4 sub-categories of leaders

In high school sports, we will typically have leaders on the team who fit into one or two of these categories.

1) Natural leaders--For whatever reason people follow them. These people have the power to make or break a team based on the tone they set.

2) Self-made leaders--Have to learn how to inspire, motivate, and move others. May not be a natural thing, but is often accompanied by intention.

3) Default leaders--Do whatever they want without thought to consequence or the fact that others will do the same. The idea that others will do what they do does not impact their actions.

4) Intentional leaders--Do things specifically for the purpose of setting a good example and having others follow. Are aware that others do what they do and act accordingly.

-Often numbers 1 and 3 go together and numbers 2 and 4 go together. Which 2 characteristics do you think lead people more effectively? Which 2 characteristics do you think will help a team go in a positive direction?

Part Two: The flow of leadership

Big Idea #1: The best leaders are or have been the best followers.

-Which leader would have more credibility with those he is leading? The CEO who graduated after 6 years of college with a degree in Underwater Basket Weaving and was appointed to his position by his father who owns the company? Or the CEO who started sorting mail in the mail room, got promoted to head of the mail room, then became a junior account man, account executive, head of accounts, VP of accounts, and then CEO?

Big Idea #2: There are times to lead and times to follow. It is important you are aware of both times.

Leadership Hierarchy



Varsity Leaders & JV Leaders

Senior Leaders, Junior Leaders, Sophomore Leaders, Freshman Leaders

Workout Group Leaders, Group Leaders

-The layers may change from day to day and situation to situation. Someone who is a leader among their classmates may need to defer leadership to upperclassmen or captains when appropriate.

-Be aware of who is following you and who you are following!

-Be intentional about when to lead and when to follow.

Part Three: Types of Leadership

"You Go" versus "Let's Go"

-"You Go" implies trying to get others to do something you are not. There may be occasions where this type of leadership is appropriate and effective. For example, coaches and injured athletes can utilize this type of leadership to some degree. However, it is difficult if not impossible for someone who doesn't have a lot of credibility to lead in this way.

-"Lets Go" implies the leader is moving with those who are following. These leaders are in the trenches, so to speak. They are not trying to get others to do what they are not, but are getting others to do what they are doing. They gain credibility by doing what they are asking and encouraging others to do.

Three Types of Leadership

Leading from the front

-There is a reason the fastest runners are often also the leaders--they are in front! Not only are they often the ones doing things right, they are easy to follow because they are literally in front of everyone else.

-It is important that the fastest runners are the best examples and best leaders. It is also important that followers realize when and if the fastest runners aren't the best ones to follow. When the fastest runners aren't the best leaders AND the followers don't realize it, a team will have struggles.

Leading from the middle

-It is possible to be in the pack and lead. In fact, sometimes it is easier to rally around a peer than it is to rally around someone ahead. Some of the best teams camaraderie-wise are teams without a clear-cut front runner. Thera are several reasons this is true. Leaders are peers. Without one person up front it is easier for different people's strengths to shine, allowing many people to be leaders. It removes the pressure on any one person to be all things to the team.

Leading from the back

-"You go" leaders may be able to "lead" from the back, but credibility is essential. Does anyone on our team have the credibility to lead from the back?

Part Four: Characteristics of Positive Leaders

Remember, being a leader doesn't necessarily mean you are leading others in a positive direction. What are some characteristics of leaders who should be followed?

-Hard work: Positive leaders should be the first to show up and the last to leave.

-Self-awareness: Remember, those following will do what you do. Often times seniors have an attitude that says, "I have paid my dues, I'm a senior, I don't have to do things the right way anymore." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Seniors and leaders need to be the best examples and hardest workers. Leaders need to be aware of their actions and aware that others are following them.

-Positive attitude: A leader's attitude is contagious. What a leader is negative, down, or upset their teammates will see that and behave similarly. Leaders are allowed to feel these things; they just are not allowed to express them unless in the right context. When around the team leaders should ALWAYS be positive.

-Out front: Even if not the fastest, leaders are out front. They set the tone, set a great example, and behave the way everyone on the team should behave.

-Set the tone: Every day has the potential to be a great day. Every practice and every meet can see special things happen. Leaders set a tone of expectation and anticipation. They create the energy and excitement level. They are thermostats, not thermometers.

-Lead by example: The fastest way to lose credibility with one's teammates is to say one thing and do another.

-Behave appropriately at all times: Leaders need to set a great example not only for their teammates, but for anyone who may be watching. You never know when an impressionable youth will be watching and will do what you do.

-Do it first: Leaders do not ask other to do what they have not.


Is it necessary to be "popular" to be a positive leader?

Is it necessary to be liked?

Is it necessary to be in an official position of leadership?

What can you work on to be a positive leader?

Part Five: Holding Teammates Accountable Without Fostering Resentment

Too many times, for whatever reason, members of a team, and even team leaders, are unwilling to hold their teammates accountable to the standards of the team. Healthy peer pressure can bring people around to doing what is right, while lack of accountability can undermine leaders and jeopardize the entire team's goals.

Remember, we agreed it it not necessary to be liked to be a positive, effective leader!

What is more important, being liked, being comfortable, and having an ordinary team; or doing whatever it takes to have an extraordinary team, even if that means being unliked or uncomfortable at times?

Change your paradigm--it does affect you!

-Our boys 4x100 at state.

-Team accomplishments and goals.

-A rising tide lifts all boats. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true.

So, how does one hold teammates accountable in a healthy, positive way?

1) Set a great example.

Do it first. Do not give them any ammunition.

-People will never respond positively to someone who says one thing and does another.

2) Go about it the right way.

-What are right and wrong ways to hold teammates accountable?

-What are appropriate and inappropriate approaches?

-Be humble but assertive. Be certain but don't act like it.

-"Let's..." "Let's go." "Let's ask." "Let's do it."

-Attitude that says, "we are all in this together."

3) Have rapport with teammates

-Know everyone's name.

-Say "hi" in the halls.

-Make it obvious you care about teammates as runners and as people.

-Have some sort of relationship with everyone on the team.

-No picking, making fun, back stabbing, or talking behind someone's back.

-Be trustworthy.

-Forget. Don't hold grudges. Don't hold mistakes over someone's head.

-Avoid cliques

Part 6: Being an Emotional and Aspirational Rudder

Leaders steer the ship that is the team. They give the team direction, energy, and power. Leaders are glue that keeps everyone together and on the same page.

Leaders set the tone!

Emotional tone:

-What do we want to feel on any given day? Happy or sad? Confident or scared? Optimistic or negative? Up or down?

-We are able to control our emotional state by controlling our self-talk, thoughts, and actions.

-Act as if. Smiling makes you happier. Walking with your shoulders back makes you feel more confident. Be aware of what message your body language is sending, and use your body language to gent into the proper emotional state.

-The emotions of the team go a long way towards determining the results the team gets. Leaders set the emotional tone. Therefore, the emotional state of the team's leaders do a lot to determine the success of the team.

Aspirational tone:

Translation: GOALS!

-What do we want to accomplish as a team? How is everyone important in determining whether or not we accomplish it? What are our long-term goals? What are your goals for the team for after you leave it? What is your legacy? (Long-term perspective)

-Goals need to be team goals. The more people who are on the same page as far as going after goals, the more power the goals will have.

-Leaders need to help everyone on the team feel like they are a part of the team's goals. Even if they are the slowest member of the team, everyone needs to know they are integral to what the team accomplishes.

-Leaders keep the team's goals in front of the members of the team. They let the goals drive them and help ensure other members of the team do as well.

Leaders have a vision that is bigger than themselves. They see what can be.