Dark traits as a potential feature of leadership in the high-performance sports coach

Benjamin G. Serpell, Darlene Harrison, Matt Lyons, Christian J. Cook

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    High-performance sport coaches are leaders in their field; therefore, they sometimes operate under ‘regular’ workplace leadership role requirements. However, they are also subject to highly uncertain and pressured environments. Thus, most coaching/leadership positions in high-performance sport may be both ‘normal’ and ‘unique’ in leadership role requirement. Consequently, understanding what high-performance sport leaders ‘look like’, behaviorally, would be valuable. This study aimed to 1) describe personality traits of coaches in high-performance sport, and 2) describe differences between high-performance sport coaches and other leaders. Hogan’s personality profile data was collected from fulltime coaches working in high-performance sport. Experienced and developing high-performance sport coaches were compared, and high-performance sport coaches were compared to other sector leaders. No differences exist between coaching groups for any personality traits. However, while high-performance sport coaches shared similar ‘light’, or ‘socially desirable’, traits to leaders in ‘regular’ workplaces they differed for some ‘dark’/maladaptive traits. That is, as is the case for leaders in sectors including business, finance and healthcare high-performance coaches may be experienced as being balanced, stable, calm under pressure, approachable, friendly, accessible, planful, responsible, and mindful of details. However, unlike leaders in ‘regular’ workplace environments, high-performance coaches may also be experienced as moody, hard to please, creative but unusual, risk-taking, and limit-testing; which is more similar to scientists and artists. In conclusion, coach personality traits were both similar and unique to leaders from ‘regular’ workplaces. Thus, leadership is context specific both within sectors and between sectors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)281-290
    Number of pages10
    JournalInternational Journal of Sports Science and Coaching
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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