In graduate classes during four semesters of an athletic management master’s degree program at a college, students were asked to make a list of all the tasks and responsibilities that would be part of a high school athletic director’s position. This would include the smallest insignificant items to the largest visionary projects – in a word, everything that an athletic administrator does. Depending upon the background of the students, some lists were longer and more detailed, but all were extensive and contained many items.
During this session, students were given examples of what constituted leadership, and a quick overview of the aspects of management were also presented. Everyone in class was then given 10 minutes to put an ‘L’ in front of all items that pertained to leadership and a ‘M’ for those that represented management. After totaling each category and dividing by the total number of items, a percentage was obtained for both leadership and management aspects.
While there might have been a few associated responsibilities that possibly could go either way, the results indicated that 15 percent of an athletic administrator’s duties fell under the label of leadership and 85 percent constituted management. Since this effort did not use a random sampling, it would not qualify as scientific research. One might label the process as a representative sampling, but it did provide a unique distinction and clarification for these students.
Even when considering a margin of error, management tasks and responsibilities far outweighed those associated with leadership. And this point should also provide food for thought as to what exactly is involved in an athletic administrator’s position and what should be considered to possibly readjust a little.
Is there anything wrong with wanting to improve one’s leadership skills? No, this is definitely a worthy goal. However, leadership is a current buzz word and seemingly everyone and anyone writes a book on the topic. It’s leadership according to … and leadership this and steps to improve your leadership. However, an administrator must also be aware of the importance of management skills and work to improve those skills as well.
Management is often broken into four components: planning, organizing, directing and controlling. In these segments, one would also include allocating funds and overseeing human resources that would include staffing, development and mentoring. Some individuals might also include evaluation in the mix, and effective communication may be considered as a necessary additional requisite. But essentially, management entails these aspects.
On the other hand, leadership involves encouraging, guiding and influencing, and it doesn’t have to be overt and dynamic. Leadership can also be quiet and subtle. It can be done successfully by serving as an example and role model, and not actually uttering a single word. But these elements are uniquely different from management. Even though administrators may use leadership and management skills, they are not one and the same.
What can be done, therefore, to improve the management skills of athletic administrators?
While these suggestions and steps are extremely important and should be useful, at least come to an appreciation that leadership isn’t the only skill set that is necessary to succeed as an administrator. Whether the percentage is 80 or 85 percent in your setting, management plays a huge role in your position. This means that you better also try to improve and enhance this skill set. It’s not just leadership, but it is OK to try to become a better leader as long as you are also equally focused on management.
Dr. David Hoch is a former athletic director at Loch Raven High School in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore County). He assumed this position in 2003 after nine years as director of athletics at Eastern Technological High School in Baltimore County. He has 24 years experience coaching basketball, including 14 years on the collegiate level. Hoch, who has a doctorate in sports management from Temple (Pennsylvania) University, is past president of the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association, and he formerly was president of the Maryland State Coaches Association. He has had more than 700 articles published in professional magazines and journals, as well as four textbook chapters. He is the author of a book entitled Blueprint for Better Coaching. Hoch is a member of the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.