Preferred leadership Styles of Student Athletes in a Midwest NAIA Conference

Authors: Todd D. Pitts, Ed. D, Gerald Nyambane, Ph.D., Stephen L. Butler Ed.D.

Corresponding Author:
Todd D. Pitts, Ed.D
6191 Kraft Avenue
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49512
tpitts@davenport.edu
616-554-4716

Todd D. Pitts is an Associate Professor of Sports Management at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also serves as the university’s Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR) to the NCAA.

Preferred Leadership Styles of Student-Athletes in a Midwest NAIA Conference

ABSTRACT
This study examined the leadership preferences of student-athletes competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) conference located in the Midwest region of the United States. Using Chelladurai’s Leadership Scale for Sports (LSS) instrument, quantitative data were collected from student-athletes (N = 758) representing 9 universities competing in the conference. All 5 dimensions of leadership behavior were compared across student-athletes’ gender, coaches’ gender, task dependence nature of the sport played, and whether or not the student-athlete’s institution identifies itself as faith-based, or non-faith-based. The results from 2 sample t-tests indicated that training and instruction and positive feedback were the most preferred leadership dimensions. The results also confirmed findings from previous studies that autocratic behavior is the least preferred leadership dimension. In addition, the democratic behavior leadership dimension was preferred more by student-athletes participating in independent sports than student-athletes in team sports; corroborating findings in recent studies.Keywords: Leadership Scale for Sports, NAIA, Preference Version

INTRODUCTION
Understanding the preferred leadership styles of student-athletes is important because it enables coaches to more effectively motivate their athletes to improve performance and increase their satisfaction in the sport. In athletics, leadership is viewed as the process of inspiring or influencing athletes of a team to perform their tasks enthusiastically and competently to meet team goals (7). In addition, it has often been considered the main reason for the success or failure of an athlete or sports team (14). Hence, the key to successful sport leadership lies in the ability of a coach to match his/her leadership style with that of the athletes’ preferred leadership style in order to maximize team satisfaction and enhance individual performance. It follows, therefore, that the primary role for coaches is to motivate athletes to improve their performance (28).

In general, it is accepted that leadership styles influence athletic performance, satisfaction, behavior (16, 39), motivation, and self-efficacy (31). This implies that the type of leadership displayed by a coach has a significant impact on both the athletes and their teams (2). However, a major challenge for coaches involves creating harmonious relationships between them and the athletes they coach (37). To accomplish this, it is necessary for the coach’s leadership style to be aligned with the preferred leadership style of the student-athletes. Thon et al. (37) suggested that a coach’s actions may be optimized to increase the opportunities for more effective results if his/her behavior is known vis-à-vis the behavior preferred by the athletes. Horn (23) also made a similar suggestion that coaches should practice appropriate leadership styles because they can have a significant impact on the performance and psychological wellbeing of their players.

Chelladurai and Saleh (13) were the first to propose that the effectiveness of leader behavior is contingent on its congruence with the preferences of the members, as well as the edicts of the situational characteristics (13). Therefore, an in-depth understanding of how coaching leadership styles affect the ability to motivate athletes, improve their performance, and increase satisfaction in the sport, was the focus of this study.

This study had four focus areas. First, the study identified student-athletes’ preferred leadership styles based on their gender. Second, preferred leadership styles were identified based on the coach’s gender. Third, preferred leadership styles were identified based on whether the sports were considered independent or interdependent. Finally, preferred leadership styles in coaching behaviors were identified based on whether a student athlete’s college or university identified itself as faith-based or non-faith based.

Theoretical Framework
Situational Leadership
Situational leadership focuses on leadership in various situations. The dynamics of situational leadership are divided into two parts: Leadership style and developmental level of subordinates. Leadership style refers to the behavior of the leader initiating structure or consideration, while developmental level refers to the degree to which subordinates have the competence and commitment necessary to accomplish a given task or activity (5). Developed by Hersey and Blanchard (21), the premise of this theory is that different situations demand different kinds of leadership. To be an effective leader one must adapt his/her leadership style to the demands of different situations and recognize what employees need, and then adapt his/her style to meet those needs (29). The leadership studies conducted at Ohio State University served as the foundation for Hersey and Blanchard’s (22) theory of situational leadership. According to the model, the leader must remain receptive to the followers’ level of readiness. As new tasks are assigned and new goals established, the level of readiness of the subordinate may change. Leonard (26) argued that the model is founded on the concept of maturity (time in a program) of the subordinate which will dictate the level of leadership behavior regarding task and relationship.

Hence, in essence, the Situational Leadership Model explains why leadership effectiveness varies across the dimensions of initiating structure and consideration (24), and the readiness and maturity level of subordinates (18). Initiating structure, termed, task behavior, describes one-way directional behavior from the leader to the member. Consideration, termed, relationship behavior, describes two-way directional communication from the leader while providing social-emotional support for the member. Readiness refers to the ability and willingness of members to take responsibility for directing their behavior in relation to a specific task (22). Based on maturity, the subordinate will pass through a series of stages that combine different levels of initiating structure and consideration; thereby exhibiting various task behaviors and relationship behaviors as their maturity increases.

Contingency Theory
Contingency theory, espoused by Fiedler (19), is concerned with styles and situations and provides the framework for effectively matching the leader and the situation. Fiedler (19) argued that the characteristics of the leaders were predicated on the leader’s orientation regarding task-oriented leader behaviors and interpersonal-oriented leader behaviors. He argued that contingency in leadership is a situation or event that is dependent, or contingent, upon someone or something else. Consequently, the Contingency Model of leadership asserts that for a leader to be effective there must be an appropriate fit between the leader’s behavior, his/her style, and the conditions, by matching leaders to the appropriate situation (18, 29).

Research Methods in Coaching Behavior
Coaching leadership behavior and theories find their origins in the contingency theories of situational leadership, contingency theory, and path-goal theory. The majority of exploration in sports leadership has focused on the role of the coach. During the 1970s, sport leadership scholars suggested the need for a framework for the examination of leadership in the sports domain. Various models have attempted to describe coaching behavior and its effects on athletes’ satisfaction and development while at the same time taking into account both the athlete’s gender as well as that of the coach. This study followed a similar approach.

Four popular tools for coaching behavior assessment are: The Mediational Model of Leadership (33), the Model of Coaching Effectiveness (23), the Coaching Model (15), and the Multidimensional Model of Leadership (MML) (12). All four models describe coaching effectiveness and have the following assumptions in common: (a) athlete’s development is the key focus for coaches, (b) coaches’ beliefs and values are closely linked to coaching effectiveness, and (c) coaching behaviors must be adapted to meet the specific needs of athletes in the specific coaching context (25). Additionally, although each model is unique, common themes include the impact of coaches’ characteristics and contextual factors on coaching behavior. Personal characteristics such as gender, and contextual characteristics such as the type of sport, have been shown to influence coaches’ behavior and are the focus of the current study.

Multidimensional Model of Leadership
Of the four models listed above, the (MML) (12), is the most widely used to study effective leadership in sport with coaching as the primary aspect of leadership studied. The model allows one to evaluate leadership effectiveness based on the satisfaction and performance of athletes. Chelladurai and Saleh (12) argued that the performance and satisfaction of athletes is the product of three specific leadership behaviors: required leadership behaviors, preferred leadership behaviors, and actual leadership behaviors. These leadership behaviors are in turn, persuaded by three factors: characteristics of the environment, characteristics of the athlete, and personal characteristics of the coach (40). The model was instrumental in research on coaching because it recognized that a coach’s success entails much more than just great leadership skills. Instead, the model argued that the ability of a coach to identify situational constraints and adapt his/her leadership style to best respond to those situational constraints was an absolute measure of success. In other words, successful coaches are able to adjust to situational constraints by incorporating the required and preferred behaviors into their actual behaviors (40).

The MML was created to provide a framework to identify effective leadership behaviors for specific sports settings (35, 36). It is a theory of leadership where group performance and member satisfaction are considered a function of the congruence among required leader behavior, actual/perceived leader behavior, and the preferred leader behavior (12). The central proposition of the MML is that group performance and member satisfaction can be enhanced when the leadership behavior required by the situation, the leadership behavior preferred by the followers, and the leadership behavior perceived by the followers are similar (3). It is grounded in the concept of the contingency theory of leadership. Contingency theories maintain that leadership effectiveness is maximized when leaders correctly make their behaviors contingent on certain situational and follower characteristics (24). Therefore, leaders need to be able to alter their leadership style by correctly identifying the situation and then adjusting that style to maximize follower outcomes. Further, Chelladurai and Saleh (12) posited that there are multiple dimensions to leader behavior and three different facets: actual leader behavior, preferred leader behavior, and required leader behavior of the leader that must be considered (4). The congruence between these behaviors determines the level of the outcome variable of member satisfaction and group performance (20).

To implement the MML, Chelladurai and Saleh (11, 12) developed a sport-specific tool, the Leadership Scale for Sports (LSS), to be used for measuring the relationship between coaching behavior and athlete motivation. The LSS has three versions, (a) the athlete’s preferences of their coaches’ behavior; (b) coaches own leadership behaviors, or ideal leadership behaviors, and (c) athletes’ perceived behaviors of their coaches (38). It was built to test the relationship between the constructs in the MML and its application to the predictions of leadership effectiveness (12). It is a 40-item sub-scale questionnaire designed to represent various leadership behaviors. Chelladurai (8) hypothesized that the behavior exhibited by a leader would affect performance and satisfaction of the followers with one of five possible outcomes. Each outcome represents a specific dimension of leadership behavior as follows: one instructional behavior, training, and instruction, two decision-making behaviors, autocratic and democratic, and two motivational behaviors, social support and positive feedback.

Coaches constantly strive to motivate athletes to improve their performance and increase their satisfaction in the sport. Therefore, an understanding, of which leadership style is most effective in causing an athlete to perform at his/her highest level, is crucial in the development of the athlete. This study sought to add to existing literature that is helpful in equipping coaches with information about student athlete leadership preferences based on their gender as well as the gender of their coach; whether the sport is played independently or interdependently; and, whether the student athlete’s institution identifies itself as faith-based or non-faith based.

Increase resistance and intensity progressively. This is necessary because for bone to form it requires a minimum amount of strain. Once a bone adapts to a given strain level, the stimulus for bone to form is removed and a higher strain level becomes necessary for it to adapt further (10).

Methodology
The preference version of the LSS was administered online during the first week of January 2018, using SurveyMonkey®. The timing of the survey was purposely set to allow student-athletes an opportunity to experience the leadership style of their coach and formulate an opinion on their coach’s leadership styles and behaviors before responding to the survey. The target population was students who were athletes during the fall semester of 2017 coming into the winter semester of 2018. As earlier stated, the LSS has 40 items in which respondents’ responses are recorded using a Likert Scale of 1 to 5 indicating their preferences on how often they would prefer to see their coach exhibit a specific behavior as follows:

  1. Never,
  2. Seldom (about 25% of the time),
  3. Occasionally (about 50% of the time),
  4. Often (about 75% of the time), and
  5. Always.

For each leadership dimension, the number of items used to construct the dimension score was distributed as follows: Training and Instruction (thirteen), Democratic Behavior (nine), Autocratic Behavior (five), Social Support (eight), and Positive Feedback (five). The scores were computed as the sum of item scores divided by the number of items in the dimension as follows:

Formula 1

Where xi = the item score as recorded from each respondent and n = the number of items in a given leadership dimension.

In total 758 respondents chose to complete the survey which represented a response rate of 20.18%. Further, out of the completed surveys, eight were found to be incomplete and were therefore excluded from the analysis leaving a total of 750 cases, which were used in the analysis. The data were downloaded from SurveyMonkey® in Microsoft Excel format and uploaded into IBM SPSS Statistics software for processing and analysis.

The study focused on the five dimensions of leadership behavior as identified in the LSS. An essential element in understanding behavior preference centers on the student-athletes’ gender. Based on the information reported in Chelladurai and Saleh’s (12) MML, differences in leadership preference would occur based on situational factors and member characteristics. Therefore, it was hypothesized that student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference would have differences in leadership preferences based on their gender. Furthermore, it was also hypothesized that student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference would report differences in leadership preferences based on the coach’s gender. Table 1 shows the gender distribution of student-athletes in the study as well as the gender of the coaches. Of the 750 total respondents, there were 424 (56.5%), female athletes, while 326 (43.5%) were male. In addition, there were 168 (22.4%), female coaches, while male coaches were 582 (77.6%).

Table 1

The third variable of interest besides the athlete’s and coach’s gender was the type of sport played. Chelladurai and Saleh (12) purported that task dependence played a role in preferred leadership behaviors. Therefore, it was hypothesized that student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference would report differences in leadership preferences based on whether their sport is played as an independent sport or as an interdependent sport. Interdependent sports are those that require team participation while independent sports are those that primarily require individual participation.

In this study, interdependent sports included baseball, coed competitive cheer, football, ice hockey, men’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, softball, volleyball, women’s basketball, women’s lacrosse and women’s soccer. Independent sports, on the other hand, included men’s bowling, men’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s indoor and outdoor track, men’s tennis, women’s bowling, women’s cross country, women’s golf, women’s indoor and outdoor track and women’s tennis. Table 2 reports the frequency distribution of the two types of sports.

Table 2

The fourth variable of interest was whether the student-athletes attend a faith-based or a non-faith-based institution. It was hypothesized that student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference would report differences in leadership behavior based on whether they participated at a faith-based institution or a non-faith-based institution. The data in Table 3 show that 391 (52.1%) of the student-athletes in the study attended faith-based institutions while 359 (47.9%) attended non-faith-based institutions.

Table 3

Table 4 shows the descriptive statistics of the scores on the five leadership dimensions of coaching behavior. The scores are based on a Likert scale of 1 to 5 (1 = never preferred, 2 = seldom preferred, 3 = preferred occasionally, 4 = often preferred, 5 = always preferred). The results indicated that, on average, the athletes’ most preferred behavior was positive feedback (µ = 4.01) followed by training and instruction (µ = 3.86), social support (µ = 3.68), democratic behavior (µ = 3.39), and autocratic behavior (µ = 2.93), which was the least preferred coaching behavior. The operational description of each behavior is as follows: Training and instruction is concerned with training, instructing, and assisting athletes to perform to their maximum potential. Democratic behavior indicates the extent to which athletes are permitted to contribute to decision-making during coaching sessions. Autocratic behavior is reflective of independent decision-making by the coach and portrays the coach as an authoritarian figure. Social support characterizes the coach’s concern for the welfare of athletes and is aimed at satisfying the interpersonal needs of athletes. Positive feedback illustrates the extent to which the coach acknowledges, rewards, and compliments athletes for their performance and contribution on the field. The variability of responses presented in Table 4 was relatively similar for all five coaching dimensions. The most significant variability in responses occurred in positive feedback (SD =0.65) while the smallest variability of responses was seen in training and instruction (SD = 0.45). This indicates that there are relatively small differences in the overall variance for the five coaching behaviors.

Table 4

The items for measuring each of the leadership dimensions were tested for internal consistency, and the results are reported in Table 5. Also included for comparison are results from the original study by Chelladurai and Saleh (12), which developed the LSS instrument as well as those from a follow-up study by Surujlal and Dhurup (36). Similar to these prior studies, all items in the current study have acceptable levels of internal consistency. The only exception is autocratic behavior, which had a Cronbach’s Alpha of 0.51 although it is comparable to those of the other two studies.

Table 5

Hypothesis Testing
The purpose of this study was to investigate the leadership preferences of student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference, a mid-western conference within the NAIA. Specifically, the study had four objectives. First, the study sought to determine if student-athletes preferred leadership style depended on their gender. That is, does the leadership style preferred by female student-athletes differ from that preferred by their male counterparts? Second, the study sought to determine if the preferred leadership styles were dependent on the gender of the coach. Third, the study sought to determine if the preferred leadership styles differed based on whether the student athlete’s sport is played independently or interdependently. Fourth, the study also sought to determine if the preferred leadership styles varied based on whether the student athlete’s institution was faith-based or non-faith-based. In each case, the null and alternate hypotheses were as follows:

H0: There is no significant difference in leadership style preferences.
H1: There is a significant difference in leadership style preferences.

The hypothesis tests are presented in turn.

Hypothesis 1: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between male student-athletes in the Midwest Conference and female student-athletes in the Midwest Conference.

Descriptive statistics for leadership dimension scores by student athlete’s gender are reported in Table 6 below. The results show that, on average, Positive feedback (µ = 4.07 for females and µ = 3.92 for males) and training and instruction (µ = 3.87 for females and µ = 3.85 for males) were the leadership dimensions most reported. This indicates that these two dimensions were the most preferred coaching leadership behaviors by student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference.

Table 6

Table 7 reports the two sample t-test results for the null hypothesis of equal means for both male and female student-athletes against the alternative hypothesis that the means are different. The results show that the assumption of equal variance for the two samples is valid based on Levene’s test for equality of variances (p > 0.05). However, the t-test results are presented for both cases when an equal variance is assumed and when it is not. The conclusion is similar in either case.

Using α = 0.05 for the level of statistical significance testing, the results showed that there was a significant difference in the mean scores for male and female athletes for the autocratic behavior and positive feedback leadership dimensions. Females showed a greater tendency to dislike autocratic behavior while preferring positive feedback to their male counterparts as implied by the significant negative and positive t-statistic values, respectively.

Table 7

Hypothesis 2: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who have male coaches and student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who have female coaches.

The descriptive statistics reported in Table 8 for coaches’ gender, shows a similar pattern to that found in student-athletes gender. The most preferred leadership dimension was positive feedback (µ = 4.06 for female coaches and µ = 3.99 for male coaches) followed by training and instruction (µ = 3.89 for female coaches and µ = 3.86 for males). On the other hand, autocratic behavior was the least preferred leadership dimension (µ = 2.92 for female coaches and µ = 2.94 for male coaches). The variability of responses presented in Table 8 was similar across all five coaching dimensions as shown by the standard deviations reported.

Table 8

Table 9 reports the two sample t-test results for the null hypothesis of equal means for both male and female coaches against the alternative hypothesis that the means are different. The results show that the assumption of equal variance for the two samples was valid based on Levene’s test for equality of variances (p > 0.05).

Using α = 0.05 for the level of significance testing, the results show that there was no significant difference in the mean scores for male and female coaches in any of the leadership dimensions. This may suggest that student-athletes’ leadership style preferences are independent of the coach’s gender. However, if α = 0.10 is used as the level of significance testing, then the difference in means for social support leadership dimension would be significant. The positive t-statistic implies that student-athletes prefer female coaches to exhibit this type of leadership style more than they do for male coaches.

Table 9

Hypothesis 3: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who play independent sports and student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who play interdependent sports.

The descriptive statistics reported in Table 10 for the type of sport, show that the student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference overwhelmingly play interdependent sports (n = 593) compared to those who play independent sports (n =157). Similar to the previous hypotheses, these results showed that the most preferred leadership dimension is positive feedback (µ = 4.08 for independent sports and µ = 3.99 for interdependent sports) followed by training and instruction (µ = 3.85 for independent sports and µ = 3.92 for interdependent sports). Again, autocratic behavior was the least preferred leadership dimension (µ = 2.94 for independent sports and µ = 2.90 for interdependent sports). The variability of responses was also similar across all five coaching dimensions.

Table 10

Table 11 reports the two sample t-test results for the null hypothesis of equal means for independent and interdependent sports against the alternative hypothesis that the means are different. The results show that the assumption of equal variance for the two samples was valid based on Levene’s test for equality of variances (p > 0.05).

Using α = 0.05 for the level of significance testing, the results show that there was a significant difference in the mean scores for independent and interdependent sports in the democratic behavior leadership dimension. Student-athletes who participated in independent sports significantly favored this leadership dimension compared to those who participated in interdependent sports.

Table 11

Hypothesis 4: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between student-athletes’ in the Midwest Conference who attend faith-based schools and student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who attend public/private schools.

The Midwest Conference is nearly equally divided between institutions where student-athletes identified their institution as faith-based (n = 391) and student-athletes that identified their institution as non-faith-based (n = 359). Similar to the results discussed in previous hypotheses, Table 12 shows that the most preferred leadership dimension by both faith-based and non-faith-based was positive feedback (µ = 4.03 and µ = 3.99, respectively) followed by training and instruction (µ = 3.86 and µ = 3.87, respectively). Again, the least preferred leadership dimension was autocratic behavior (µ = 2.91 and µ = 2.96, respectively).

Table 12

Using α = 0.05 for the level of significance testing, the results in Table 13 show that there was no significant difference in the mean scores for faith-based and non-faith-based institutions in any of the leadership dimensions. This implies that student-athletes’ leadership style preferences are independent of whether their institution is faith-based or not.

Table 13

DISCUSSION
The present study verified the validity of the LSS as an instrument for assessing preferred leadership behaviors of student-athletes using the Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for each leadership dimension. All items were found to have acceptable levels of reliability and were comparable to those found in previous studies.

The results of the study revealed significant differences between the leadership behavior preferences of student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference. While the research confirmed the results of previous studies in several leadership behaviors, significant differences were found in the leadership dimensions of positive feedback and autocratic behavior for male and female student-athletes. Significant differences were also found in the leadership dimension of democratic behavior between student-athletes playing independent sports and those playing interdependent sports.

First, female student-athletes in the Midwest Conference overwhelmingly preferred positive feedback leadership behavior compared to their male counterparts (p = 0.002). This is perhaps because female athletes tend to have a more personal relationship with their coach and often feel more emotionally attached (27). Chelladurai and Saleh (12) also identify this leadership dimension as an integral contributor to a healthy athlete-coach relationship. Another plausible explanation advanced by Stewart (34) is that differences in the way genders communicate might result in this leadership behavior being preferred by females. While female athletes are not less competitive than their male counterparts, their approaches are different and their preferences may be different as well.

Second, there was a significant difference in the preference of the autocratic behavior leadership dimension between male and female student-athletes in the Midwest Conference. Female student-athletes disapproved of this leadership behavior more than their male counterparts (p = .003). Previous studies found that both genders disapprove of this leadership style, as did the current study (12, 27 and 31). This reinforces the notion that athletes prefer to participate in an environment that is free from fear of repercussion or chastisement by their coach (31). However, a unique finding of the current study is that female student-athletes in the Midwest Conference overwhelmingly disapprove of the autocratic behavior leadership dimension. Finally, significant differences were found in the preference of the democratic behavior between student-athletes in independent sports and those in interdependent sports. This finding is consistent with (4), who also found that independent sport student-athletes had a significantly higher preference for democratic leader behavior. However, it differs from the findings of the original study of Chelladurai and Saleh (12), and that of Aleksic-Veljkovic et al. (1), both of which found no significant differences in leadership behavior preferences between individual sport players and team sport players. In support of the current study’s findings, Fletcher and Roberts (20) argued that, as a team progresses through the season of competition, rapport and cohesiveness allow for an increase in a democratic style of decision-making between the team members and the coach. Additionally, Chelladurai and Haggerty (12) suggested that a more participatory style of decision-making might be appropriate as experience levels of athletes increase. This might also suggest that student-athletes with junior or senior eligibility status may prefer this type of leadership style compared to those with freshman or sophomore status.

CONCLUSION
The overall aim of the study was to identify leadership preferences most accepted by student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference. To accomplish this aim, four hypotheses were tested to measure the leadership preference of student-athletes as follows.

Hypothesis 1: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between male student-athletes in the Midwest Conference and female student-athletes in the Midwest Conference.

Previous studies by Chelladurai and Carron (10), Crust and Azadi (16), Surujlal and Dhurup (36) and Cruze and Kim (17) found that if the behavior of the coach is congruent with the preferred behavior of the athlete, the demands of the coach are much more palatable. Therefore, the athlete is more likely to follow the coach’s instructions. The results in Table 7 showed that there were significant differences between male and female athletes’ preferences in the autocratic behavior and positive feedback leadership dimensions. These findings are consistent with the findings by Surujlal and Dhurup (36), Thon et al. (37), and Misasi, Morin and Kwasnowski (27). As a result, one can conclude that coaches of female student-athletes who exhibit autocratic behavior are likely to impede their motivation, performance, and satisfaction. Furthermore, autocratic behavior with a mean score of 2.87 for females and 3.00 for males was the least preferred of all the leadership dimensions. This suggests that student-athletes in the Midwest Conference have a low preference for this type of leadership behavior and that, perhaps, collegiate student-athletes in the Midwest Conference do not respond well to a dictator-like style of leadership. However, this may not necessarily be unique to the Midwest Conference because Chelladurai and Saleh (12) and Surujlal and Dhurup (36) also found low mean scores for autocratic leadership.

On the contrary, a study of high school badminton players in the Philippines by Cruz and Kim (17) found high mean scores of 3.66 for boys and 3.54 for girls suggesting young badminton players did not mind their coaches exhibiting authority. Additionally, in a study of female athletes in middle school, Tucker (39) found similar results with autocratic behavior getting high mean scores. The findings from these two studies suggest that, perhaps, athletes at a younger age and with less experience may be more tolerant of this type of leadership behavior. However, the current study did not investigate preferences based on age and cannot draw definitive inferences to that effect.

Significant differences were also found in the preference for the positive feedback leadership dimension between males and female student-athletes (see Table 7). Female student-athletes overwhelmingly preferred this leadership behavior to their male counterparts. This finding is consistent with the findings from other studies including Sherman, Fuller and Speed (32), Thon et al. (37), and Kim and Cruz (17). Therefore, coaches exhibiting the leadership behaviors of positive feedback and refraining from autocratic behavior are likely to be the most effective coaches of Midwest Conference student-athletes. Previous studies had similar results (12, 16, 17, and 36). A study by Misasi et al. (27) is the exception because it found no significant differences in mean scores for positive feedback between male and female athletes competing in NCAA Division I and Division II collegiate sports.

Hypothesis 2: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who have male coaches and student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who have female coaches.

Overall, the study found that most of the student-athletes competing in the Midwest Conference preferred coaches to exhibit the positive feedback, and training and instruction leadership dimensions regardless of the gender of their coach (see Table 8). At the same time, the study also found that autocratic behavior was the least preferred leadership dimension by both male (µ = 2.94) and female (µ = 2.92) athletes. Sherman et al. (2000) also found similar results.

At the 5% level of significance testing (α = 0.05), there was no significant difference between the mean scores for male and female coaches in any of the five dimensions of leadership. However, at the 10% level of significance testing (α = 0.10), there was evidence to support the alternative hypothesis of different mean scores for male and female coaches for the social support leadership dimension. In particular, student-athletes preferred to see female coaches exhibiting this type of leadership behavior more than they did for their male counterparts. Therefore, some consideration needs to be given to this dimension of leadership when interacting with female student-athletes competing in this Midwest Conference. This finding is corroborated by Bolter and Weiss, (6) and Stewart (34) who espoused that athlete expectations for their coaches can be influenced by gender stereotypes, and therefore, they may have different expectations of how they prefer female coaches to lead them as opposed to male counterparts. Stewart (34) further argued that female coaches are more rational and personal in the way in which they communicate and thus, develop relationships that are more personal with their athletes. This, in turn, causes athletes to prefer (or expect) them to exhibit this type of leadership behavior.

Hypothesis 3: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between student-athletes in the Midwest Conference who play independent sports and those who play interdependent sports.

The study found that there was a significant difference in the mean scores for the democratic behavior leadership dimension between student-athletes playing interdependent sports and those playing independent sports as reported in Table 10. Specifically, student-athletes playing independent sports significantly favored this leadership dimension. All previous studies had found this dimension of leadership to have no significance between the means scores of student athletes competing in dependent sports to those competing in interdependent sports until a recent study by Cruz and Kim (17) reported the contrary. This finding may reveal a change in the dynamics between coach and athletes of today. In previous studies, Puyn, Kwon, Koh, and Wang (30) found significant differences in mean scores for training and instruction and positive feedback leadership dimensions only, as did Aleksic-Veljkovic, Djurovic, Dimic, Mujanovic and Zivcic-Markovic (1) who in addition, also found significant differences in mean scores for the social support dimension. Therefore, this is a relatively new finding that corroborates the recent findings of Cruz and Kim (17). Intuitively, this result can be explained as being due to the bonding between a coach and a student-athlete in independent sports leading to a dynamic relationship of give-and-take. However, overall, and similar to previous research, the positive feedback leadership dimension was the most preferred followed by training and instruction (1, 30).

Hypothesis 4: There is a significant difference in the preferred leadership styles between student-athletes’ in the Midwest Conference who attend faith-based schools and those who attend non faith-based schools.

The study did not find any evidence to suggest that leadership preferences differed across these two types of institutions (see Table 13). The conceptualization of the hypothesis was based on the reasoning that student-athletes in faith-based institutions would tend to prefer their coaches to exhibit more of the social support leadership dimension than their non-faith-based institution counterparts. Nevertheless, the results do not support this supposition.

APPLICATIONS IN SPORT
The leadership style exercised by coaches may have a fundamental impact on the success or failure of their programs, therefore, an understanding of the preferred leadership styles of student-athletes will enable coaches to more effectively motivate student-athletes, improve their performance, and increase their satisfaction in the sport. This in turn may also have a positive effect on the success of the coach.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
None

REFERENCES
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2018-11-21T11:37:24+00:00December 27th, 2018|Leadership, Research|Comments Off on Preferred leadership Styles of Student Athletes in a Midwest NAIA Conference