The Mental Edge 14 July 2023

14 July 2023

Mental Edge Newsletter

Helping You Gain A Mental Edge

Do you leave leadership skills to chance?

Do you leave leadership skills to chance?

In a previous life before supporting athletes, parents, coaches and teams I worked in the travel industry, for the most part in corporate or business travel.  In 2003, after being with a company around 9 months I was promoted to Branch Manager, which I was ecstatic at.  The position meant my responsibilities were hugely different from in the past.  It was a bold move from the company, as I was the youngest and least experienced member in the team and I had no formal managerial or leadership training or experience.

Would I sink or swim?

To say my first month was interesting would be an understatement. I began with a team on its knees, badly affected by a recent power struggle by old partners of the company and a recent takeover by our then new owners.  I experienced resignations, hired new members of staff, inducted and trained them to understand our computer systems and company procedures.  As well, I somehow managed to find the time to assist in servicing clients, manage the existing team and take care of financial matters.

Support is Hugely Powerful

Now 20 years on a similar and frequent pattern I see in my work in sport is that many coaches and captains, are given roles based on their competence in their previous role as I was, but they don’t necessarily possess good leadership skills when they commence the job.  As a result, some swim, thankfully I did but unfortunately others sink.  England cricket is a great example in the past, when you look at the recruitment of captains in the past, when they’ve designated that role to arguably the team’s best player in Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pieterson and now it could be argued they were errors of judgement from the management and selectors.

Successful teams and clubs have formidable leaders, and the importance of this role is evident across all team sports. The behaviours of a leader are very clear in training and in competitive situations and matches. Less obvious is on a day to day and informal level, through group messages and body language yet the leader’s contribution in these moments is enormous.

Leadership can be a formal role in certain situations, it can also be informal as I’ve suggested above, all in all, leadership is focused on influencing people, giving directions and connecting everyone towards the team and clubs vision and goals.

John Adair is best-known for his three-circle model of Action-Centred Leadership, which is widely considered as the UK’s main authority on leadership and leadership development in business organisations.

It is a simple and practical model and is figuratively based on three overlapping circles. These represent the task, the team and the individual. The model has endured well, most likely because it is the fundamental model for describing what leaders have to do, the actions that they must take whatever their working environment, in order to be effective:

  1. Achieve the task
  2. Build and maintain the team
  3. Develop the individual

If you’re reading this post as a coach or sporting director, especially in a team sport setting I’d like you to seriously consider the following 3 questions that relate to the fundamentals above:

  1. How much focus do you (or your coaches) place on technical vs psycho-social factors?
  2. What are the best approaches that you (or your organisation) put in place to build and maintain team spirit?
  3. What key processes do you rely on to develop every individual in your squad, team or club?


In our most recent podcast episode, leadership is the topic that Paula Eddy Wilcox and I discuss, specifically looking at vulnerability in leaders, coaches or managers.  From a mental toughness angle this links with a number of the measures from Peter Cloughs 4Cs Model of Mental Toughness.  Namely, interpersonal confidence and being comfortable in yourself when you communicate to others, to emotional control where we can choose to or not, express our thoughts and emotions to other people.  As well as, risk orientation, where we can decide to stretch ourselves or remain comfortable and learning orientation, where we can look to learn from mistakes.  Enjoy tuning in!


David Charlton Sports Psychologist

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Online Sports Psychologist | Mental Performance Coach who supports many highly motivated athletes, young and old, developing their skills or who are already highly skilled so that they gain a mental edge and get the most from their talent across the globe from USA/Canada to Great Britain and Ireland to UAE, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.    

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence

Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast

Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub 

Author of The Mental Edge

With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to transfer their skills from training to competitive situations, under pressure.

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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