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Special Issues

Special Issue on Sport Leadership: A New Generation of Thinking

While we consider leadership theory and research to be constantly evolving, over the past 10 years we see a significant shift away from a pre-occupation with formal, assigned leaders (e.g., CEOs) toward greater emphasis on (what has been variously described as) the social construction of leadership (Grint, 2005). This perspective views leadership as a social, collaborative, relational experience focusing on the idea that leadership emerges from the interactions and constructions of people in a particular context (Grint, 2011; Kihl, Leberman, & Schull, 2010; Ospina & Foldy, 2009). In this, leadership is viewed as a collective achievement, not something that belongs to an individual (Cullen-Lester & Yammarino, 2016).

This is an example of an innovative turn in leadership thinking that we consider has important implications for the study of leadership in sport management, organisations and systems, (or 'sport leadership'). In what way have we kept pace with this new generation of leadership thinking? While our field of sport management is perhaps too small to limit a special issue on sport leadership to submissions orientated toward the social construction of leadership, we do propose to encourage approaches that consider multilevel analysis (Burton, 2015; Fink, 2008; Welty Peachey, Damon, Zhou, & Burton, 2015) and fresh approaches to leadership. As explained by Welty Peachey et al (2015) in their 40 year review of leadership research in sport management, multilevel analysis of leadership research includes individuals, dyads, teams, groups, and organisations. We would also add systems. We agree that, "There is a critical need to incorporate multilevel investigations into our work to develop sport-focused leadership theory ..." (p. 578) in a way that appreciates the diverse contexts and ways within which leadership occurs within our sector.

A multilevel approach to leadership expands on a foundational bias in the literature toward researching traits and characteristics of individual leaders (often white, male (Burton, 2015)) where leader-centred perspectives and theories such as transformational, transactional and charismatic, have taken prominence (Welty Peachey et al., 2015). A response to concerns about the leader-centric focus (sometimes referred to as the hero leader - often propagated by the sports media) has been the emergence of follower-centred perspectives on leadership (Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe, & Carsten, 2014). Still relatively new to the leadership theory debate, this more expansive view of leadership aligns with the social construction of leadership, and has also helped to advance a resurgence of alternative theories such as emergent and servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1997; Parris & Welty Peachey, 2013). Such approaches have extended mainstream leadership research and practice but need more exploration in sport settings (O'Boyle, Murray, & Cummins, 2015). We also point to the emergence of self leadership and emotional intelligence as a central aspect of new leadership thinking that complements a more expansive view of leadership theory (Schneider, 2012). As Pearce and Manz (2005) offer, "In contrast to the traditional approach to leadership development, we argue that followers should also be included in leadership development efforts in order to prepare them to exercise responsible self-leadership and to effectively utilise shared leadership" (p. 130).

We consider there to be immediate relevance of this broader view of leadership for a special issue on sport leadership for the Journal of Sport Management. Most notably, a focus on 2 informal/emergent leadership and followership would be valued alongside assigned leaders, in combination with the encouragement of leadership research at multiple levels. A special issue orientated in this way would serve as an innovative, thought provoking resource for sport management academics and those in practice seeking to understand new ways of leadership within sport organisations and sport systems around the globe.

For more information on the focus of this special issue and the submission deadline, click on the title of the special issue above.