Assessment of Leadership Traits Required for the Intercollegiate Athletic Director Position



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The purpose of this study was to a) examine leadership traits of effective Athletic Directors and b) determine the differences and similarities between NCAA Division I, II,III, and NAIA University Presidents’ and Athletic Directors’ assessments of the methods of leadership required for the position of Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, with particular regards to Autocratic, Democratic, Positive Feedback, Training and Instruction, Social Support, and Situational Consideration Behaviors, which are concepts drawn from Zhang et al.’s (1997) Revised Leadership Scale for Sports (RLSS), an instrument specifically designed to measure research on sports-specific leadership behavior. A purposive sampling design was implemented. Fourteen participants with extensive experience in NCAA Division I, II, III, and NAIA intercollegiate athletics were recruited to secure expert insight. Participants included four University Presidents and four Athletic Directors, one each from NCAA Division I, II, III, and NAIA institutions. Remaining participants included two Conference Commissioners, two Head Coaches, and two Senior Athletic Administrators, all from NCAA Division I institutions. Semistructured interviews were implemented (Krueger & Casey, 2000). A listing of traits required for the Athletic Director role were collected through an inductive approach. Answers to series of follow-up questions provided the in-depth details of each behavior mentioned in the initial response. A series of structured questions—with each intended to be representative of each of the six RLSS constructs to confirm the construct validity for the current research—were implemented utilizing a deductive approach. A classical content analysis was applied to address the research question. A holistic coding approach was taken in reviewing the participants’ initial descriptions to identify types of traits associated with the Athletic Director role. A descriptive open-coding process was utilized to carefully code the data line-by-line to capture the overall meaning intended. A constant comparison analysis was conducted to systematically condense data into codes and then to develop themes. As a result, the following themes emerged as the leadership traits required for the intercollegiate Athletic Director position: (a) communicator, (b) driven, (c) personable, (d) poised, (e) principled, (f) self-aware, (g) skilled, and (h) visionary. Recommendations for future research and practical implications are offered.



Athletic Director, Group of 5 Conferences, Intercollegiate Athletics, Leadership, NAIA, NCAA, Power 5 Conferences, Revised Leadership Scale for Sport, University President.