Guest Post: The effects of leader communication on teams

My name is Aylin Wispeler. I am from Germany and at the moment I am doing my exchange semester as an undergraduate student at University of Alabama. I am here to deepen my knowledge in management and communication in order to become an effective leader in my future. I will begin my required internship in only a few months. In my opinion leadership, and especially communication, involves much more than only getting a message across.

Being enrolled in Dr. Campbell’s class “Leadership Communication” helps me gain the necessary knowledge and learn the basis for effective communication. Analyzing dialogues from movies helps to get a feeling for do’s and dont´s in management.

This assignment involved the analysis of two dialogues. The first one comes from the film “Miracle”, the other one from the film “Hoosiers”. Both movies show interactions between a sports coach and his team but in a completely different way. Therefore we had to compare the behavior of both coaches and decide whether they acted as a leader or manager of their team. I liked the exercise we were assigned because it included two great movies which show in an impressive way what effect leader communication has on people in teams.

The Assignment

Read the dialogue from the film Miracle, which recounts the story of the U.S. hockey team’s miracle performance during the 1982 Olympic Games under coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell). Then read the dialogue from the film Hoosiers, about a high school basketball team in small-town Indiana led by Coach Dale (played by Gene Hackman). Use Table 1a in your book [Thinking and Interacting Like a Leader] to compare the behaviors of the two coaches. Do the coaches act as managers or leaders in each situation? Give specific evidence to support your answer.


My Response

Coach Brooks appears to be very task-oriented and is therefore rather called a manager. He wants his team to win the Olympics at any price. It is obvious that he has clear goals and procedures, when one of his players says he can not play because he is hurt, Brooks immediately says “I got no time for quitters” and “…you candy ass”. There is no social support or any interest in personal needs; the only thing that matters is to win. In order to achieve the wanted output, you can say that Brooks uses his player as a tool. For him, the players are more the tools he needs to win rather than individuals that need support and motivation. By calling the players names like “candy ass” he thinks that will prevent them from quitting or being weak. The dialogue shows the team around Brooks as a clear hierarchy; Brooks as the coach has the control over his players. He is in command and makes decisions: “Put on your gear!” and “I want you to be a hockey player!!”. Brooks tries to be effective but does not appear to achieve it in a very efficient way. Instead of communicating with his team in a supporting and motivating way, he rather commands them what to do.

The behavior of Coach Dale can be described mainly as relationship-focused. He appears to be a leader for his team. On the one hand he is the coach that the whole team respects and listens to. But on the other hand, coach Dale is a friend to his players, supporting and motivating them. Even though he is the coach, he wants to be close to his players, building a cohesive team. This is clearly seen in the dialogue when the team, including coach Dale, start huddling before the game shouting “TEAM!”. Coach Dale shows interest in individual and personal needs when he asks the team “anybody have anything they wanna say?”. He acts really considerate and respectful in front of his players: “I wanna thank you”. He knows how to encourage the team. Also the team seems to appreciate the coach: “let´s win for the coach”. The coach has a really effective and efficient way of communicating with his team. He knows how to make them feel united and respected. He gives every player the feeling he is an important part of the team. He is not only motivating them but also giving them social-emotional support, which becomes very obvious when he closes his speech with the words “I love you guys.”

Concluding, it appears that there is a big difference between the two coaches. Brooks on the one side is very task-oriented, being only the commanding manager for his team. On the other side, Coach Dale tries to achieve goals in a very relationship-oriented way. He motivates his team and tries to support them whenever and wherever possible. It is obvious that there is a much stronger coherence in Coach Dale’s team. The players appreciate their coach and his efforts, whereas personal needs seem more suppressed and irrelevant in Coach Brooks’ team. For him the main thing that matters is triumph not team support and spirit.

In my opinion Coach Dale is definitely the more effective leader because he knows how support, motivation and active communication enhances the satisfaction and effectiveness of a team.

Leadership Model from Table 1a Coach Brooks (Miracle) Coach Dale (Hoosiers)
Hersey Blanchard Tri-Dimensional Clear goals and procedures Social-emotional support
Michigan Leadership Studies Output, employee as a tool Interest in individuality and personal needs
McGregor´s Theory X Hierarchical, control of people Motivation
Ohio State Leadership Studies Goal-achievement Consideration, respectful

One thought on “Guest Post: The effects of leader communication on teams

  1. I’m excited to have a guest post by one of my students. I plan to do more of these in the future. For this assignment, Aylin’s response impressed me for several reasons.

    First, this was the first assignment of the semester. Students often struggle to provide an adequate answer to the questions I pose before they’ve received some feedback on an attempt. Sometimes they omit a question or two. And they often don’t find a way to incorporate their readings about theory into their analysis of an interaction. This is more common with undergraduate students. But Aylin hit a home run — especially with her table!

    Second, although the first few weeks of class we focus on (rhetorical) context rather than language, we are still ultimately interested in the leader’s communication behavior. And students often gloss those behaviors without attributing them to specific words or non-verbal actions. Aylin included several quotes from dialogue that made her claims more credible.

    Finally, Aylin has only been in the US for a few weeks. Her oral and written English skills are admirable.

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