This article was adapted from our booklet Captains – 7 Ways to Lead Your Team - the booklet was written for team leaders and is one of the four topics covered at the Captains and Coaches Workshops.
The seven concepts of leadership in the booklet are a job description for captains. Don’t leave leadership to chance – give your leaders the responsibility and a blueprint for success.
Leadership Concept # 5: Be the first to PROTECT AND DEFEND your team and be the last to critical.
If you cannot understand and demonstrate loyalty, step out of leadership. Before you accept a leadership position, you need to understand that being a leader often makes you a target for unfair criticism. Being strong and decisive will attract some people but it may also alienate some people. There are times when leaders need to be able stand on their own, but honestly, it is always nice to have allies. Allies are those people who are loyal to you. Leaders who are loyal, usually gain loyalty in return. Learn to demonstrate loyalty before you should expect it in return. Loyalty occasionally requires that teammates speak up to defend each other. It requires that they hold together to take on the pressures that come with being a team. Loyalty builds trust. Loyalty is belief in each other, and that allows teammates to lift each other up, to magnify individual strengths and diminish individual weaknesses.
The first person you must be loyal to is you. Demonstrate loyalty to yourself by never compromising your values for any personal gain or advantage.
Loyalty to your teammates and coaches allows you to sustain and survive the tough times that will come with any season. When teams are loyal, people do not turn on each other. Loyalty is most needed when things are going poorly. It is in those moments that loyalty will be tested. It allows you to be there and be counted on. Loyalty from leadership to the team, no matter how small, sends a strong message and is almost always comes back to you.
Loyalty will be tested when team decisions are made. There will be times when team decisions are made that you may not agree with. It is OK to question decisions while you are in the decision making process, but once the decision has been made, loyalty requires that you support the decision. Loyalty does not mean that you always agree. But if you have a problem with another teammate or a coach, you go to the person and deal directly with the problem. You cannot develop loyalty by talking about your problems with teammates and coaches to other people.
There is one guarantee during any season… you are going to face adversity and that will be a true test of loyalty. During the season, your team and your inner circle will be faced with outsiders who question your abilities, and the coach’s decisions (fellow students or adults). You must defend the inner circle of your team from these critics. The only ones who really understand are the people in the inner circle. Defend them with your words and your actions. Sometimes these critics come in the form of people who will try to have your teammates violate team standards having to do with alcohol or other poor choices. Loyal leadership steps into situations like that and is there when teammates need you to help them stand their ground and stay within the standards. Be aware and be there for teammates before they choose the wrong path. Loyalty requires commitment and courage!!
Are you loyal to yourself by standing by your beliefs no matter what else is happening? Who else are you loyal to? Who is loyal to you? Who can you count on, no matter what?
Are you aware of critics and willing to defend your teammates and coaches? How will you react to criticism of your team or coaches?
Protect and defend your team by being the first to admit you made a mistake.
Strong leaders are willing to admit mistakes. This will actually increase their stature and worth within the team. Admitting mistakes is actually an example of strength. When you have done things right be the first to say so. Don’t hesitate to admit your mistakes in front of the whole team – what a great example of trust and humility. People who never admit a mistake or make people think that they are not capable of making one, are usually insecure, not strong enough to deal with the truth. Fortune favors the team that trusts each other.
The instant a leader accepts responsibility of mistakes the leader and the entire team has taken a step toward growth and improved performance. Be an example of problem solving rather than problem creating by stepping up to your own failures. In the long run, this will create an environment where team members will grow and want to be responsible.
Keep growing for the sake of the team
No excuses should ever come from the mouth of a strong leader.
Be the first to say “my fault” and be the last to point the finger of blame toward others.
“I could have done that better, I made a mistake, I accept responsibility and will be better next time”.
Other concepts of team leadership covered in the booklet: Captains – 7 Ways to Lead Your Team.
Be the first to LEAD BY EXAMPLE and the last to violate team standards. (Commitment demonstrated by your actions)
Be the first to be a LIFELINE OF COMMUNICATION and the last to withhold information.
(Get your job description clear with your coach and be connected with the entire team)
Be the first to PRAISE OTHERS and the last to brag or draw attention to yourself. (Understand quiet confidence and the good kind of pride, shared joy)
Be the first to CONFRONT VIOLATIONS OF TEAM STANDARDS and be the last to ignore them.
(This will require courage, integrity and a problem solving method. Problems are going to happen – be proactive)
Be the first to ENCOURAGE and the last to become discouraged.
(Leaders must be mentally tough)
Be the first to SERVE and the last to expect to be served.
(How to share leadership and give all roles equal value. The longer you are part of a program the more responsibility great leaders take on.)
For more information on this booklet, other published materials, presentations or Captains and Coaches Workshops contact: