A Tale of Two Coaches Essay

Coach Bobby Knight and his famous protege, coach Mike Krzyzewski both share leadership styles and in many ways their styles are vastly different. Leadership is influence: it is getting people to deliver a set of results. Studies by Zaccaro, Kemp and Bader identified traits used by effective leaders such as cognitive abilities, extroversion, conscientiousness, stability, openness, motivation, agreeableness, social intelligence, self monitoring, emotional intelligence and problem solving skills. Both coaches led.

One coach got his students to follow him out of respect and one out of fear. Both coaches motivate. Both are shrewd strategists with cognitive abilities. Coach Krzyzewski seems to exercise social intellect, openness, agreeableness, self monitoring and emotional IQ. One of his strongest traits, motivation for socialized power was pretty unique amongst coaches like Wooden and coach Krzyzewski, while Knight is more of an achievement motivation coach similar to Vince Lombardi. Based on these traits Coach Krzyzewski used a more effective trait leadership style.

The five factor personality model (Goldberg, 1990; McCrae & Costa, 1987) focuses on the big five personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion (urgency), openness (intellect), agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Which traits are exercised by which coaches? Coach Knight was coercive (neurotic) as a coach, throwing chairs, punching police officers and choking students (Sperber, 2000). He was an expert in his field with over 800 wins. He was legendary for his preparation and contentiousness. His power was legitimate, even the athletic director at Indiana University would not challenge him (Sperber, 2000).

Do what he said as a student athlete and they would be rewarded with playing time and the possibility of a championship. Those that ignore his directives were apt to ride the pine. His coaching demeanor was not very friendly though his friends say he was very friendly away from the game. Coach Krzyzewski exercises expert power. He is revered by his students and the press as friendly usually accessible and amicable. One of Coach Krzyzewski’s seven team building principles even strives to create a family environment (Krzyzewski, 2005).

His power is legitimate, with over 800 wins and 25 visits to the NCAA tournament, a most definite reward for the athletes that follow him. His preparation and organization are legendary too. Both leaders carried the laurel of assigned leader based on the title “head coach”, both showed many of the traits of an emergent leader. ( Hogg, 2001) They both had reputations as tough, hardnosed winners that preceded them in recruiting. Both coaches tried to practice perfect and at times were not above exercising psychological warfare with their student athletes.

Both coaches were involved in every aspect of running their respective teams, both were initiators in new ideas , Coach Knight in setting the standard of Indiana’s student athlete and academic excellence extremely high and Coach Krzyzewski in doing the same thing while striving to develop a family concept. Both coaches’ teams took on their identities. Indiana was known as a fundamentally sound team of blue collar student athletes under “The Generals” leadership and Coach Krzyzewski’s teams were known as a fundamentally sound team of student athletes that played extremely hard for their coach.

Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Knight differed in their approach of the three leadership traits identified by Katz (1955) and refined by Mumford and colleagues (2000). Coach Knight lacked strong personal skills and was rarely referred to as a people person. He was apt to throw the press, coaches and players out of practice if he felt like it. Coach Krzyzewski, on the other hand, said himself that the human skills (Katz 1955) were extremely important. He is quoted as saying: “An important part of being a leader is the ability to feel what your players feel. ” (Carter, 2007).

Bobby Knight proved time and again he didn’t care what his players felt. Coach Knight and Coach Krzyzewski were both strong technical leaders, great X’s and O’s play callers. As far as conceptually leading, arguably, yes. They are both good at being able to make an idea concrete. Coach Knight built a powerhouse basketball program based on his principles of team first, no man is greater than the sum of its parts, defense first mentality. Coach Krzyzewski built a family based team intent on lifting each other up to be the best they can possibly be, by being supportive and practicing hard for each other.

As far as leadership style goes, both coaches appear to have the ability to slip effectively from one leadership style (Blake and Mouton, 1964) to another in the fact that they demand excellence. Neither coach uses the country club management to encourage the success of their respective student athletes. The quadrant that Coach Knight and Coach Krzyzewski seem to spend the most time in differs significantly. Coach Krzyzewski is a 9,9 team management type, while Coach Knight is a 9,1 authoritarian as illustrated in the case studies.

Coach Knight would definitely be known to operate in poor leader member relations, high structure, strong power base that resulted in a high Least Preferred Co-worker. Coach Krzyzewski’s style is aligned with good leader member relations, high structure and a strong power base that resulted in a preferred leadership style. Did this make Coach Krzyzewski more successful than Coach Knight? The records do not show it but records are not the only way to judge a great leader. There is far less chaos in Coach Krzyzewski’s program than there was in Coach Knights and Coach Krzyzewski was never fired.

Coach Bobby Knight is quoted as saying; “Follow our rules, do exactly as we tell you and you will not lose. ” While Grant Hill Duke alumni and former NBA all star said; “Leadership is getting people to buy into something, making them feel vested in the whole decision-making process. Coach Krzyzewski is remarkable at doing that. ” Another important theory in leadership is the Path Goal theory. Dessler, House, Mitchell, Evans and others began research from a leadership perspective as to which motives work best to get employee’s to give them the results they desire.

Leaders who clearly define goals, ensure the scope is right and resources are at hand, remove challenges as they come up and provide support are more apt to get desired results. Leaders need to know when to be directive, supportive, be participative or achievement oriented to help subordinates reach expected performance. Coach Krzyzewski is fantastic at creating a participative environment while Coach Knight caused former Indiana player and current NBA coach Steve Alford to reflect “I couldn’t understand his need to intimidate people.

Everybody around him- players, assistant coaches, faculty and sportswriters seemed uncomfortable in his presence. ” This is not a participative environment. In the Coach Knight case study there is evidence of Leader Member Exchange in group and out group behavior. One of his quotes regarding a player Keith Smart says “If there are any problems with Keith Smart, you are going to see his ass on the bench. That’s the way we handle ego at Indiana. You see the bench gives your ass a message, then your ass gives your brain a message, and then your brain will probably get Keith Smart to play a helluva lot better. This is definitely pushing a player into an out role. Knight did not bother with building a consensus team or enabling his players. Delegation was not in his vocabulary. It seemed that it was the group versus Coach Knight. As for Coach Krzyzewski, he talks about his seven team building principles. Coach Krzyzewski uses terms like building “our team”. He says that if the players do something detrimental to themselves it is detrimental to the program. Coach Krzyzewski goes on to say that there is a support system where the team and coaches have a real empathy for each other.

All these traits are those of someone who wants to cultivate an atmosphere of inclusion. The in group is the team. Coach Knight is an authoritarian. He is a task master, a control freak. He hated to lose. He is legendary in his preparation and in his abrasiveness. The General was anything but agreeable. He is a power monger; he likes to be in the high Least Preferred Co-worker sector. Coach Knight could care less about his player’s feelings, at least on the court. He rules with an iron fist. He gets his team to perform out of fear and for achievement.

His coaching knowledge is unquestionable. Coach Krzyzewski is a delegator, an inclusion coach. He leads mostly by mentoring and teaching. He sets high standards and puts the pressure on his players to police themselves. He is empathetic, a build a family coach. He gets his team to perform for him out of love and respect. He is very agreeable. Based on the case studies, the contrasts and similarities found in this paper, evidence points out that Coach Krzyzewski is a far better leader than Coach Knight. Many of the traits Coach Knight exhibits are management based in nature.

More task oriented and controlling output than building teams and developing subordinates effectively. Coach Knight’s legacy is that of a winner at any cost, while Coach Krzyzewski style consists of building a legacy of strong teams based on inclusion while still being able to win. As a leader Coach Krzyzewski sets a high bar. His goal is to make everyone play for each other. Let the players develop but steer them with values, principles and skills that are important to the good of the program. Just like a good leader, member exchange with a high number of “in group” employees. The leadership tools that Coach Krzyzewski espouses are inclusion, development, mentoring, guiding and measuring outputs based on performance. These lessons can easily be applied in business or service

References

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