Chelladurai and S. D. Saleh

The Big Idea

Leadership is a popular topic.  In fact, if one Googles “leadership” you come in with 751,000,000 results.  Not impressed?  Well, think of it this way: “leadership” is only 180,000,000 behind the Google results for “sex.”   So at least by this metric the general topic of this paper is remarkably popular indeed.   Of course, when you gradually narrow down the specific concerns this research study addresses, it does take a bit of a drop—“leadership in sports” comes in a little under 200,000,000.

But still, there aren’t many other sport-related topics more popular than leadership.  One big area of interest is just exactly what the nature of leadership is in the first place.  If you have some time, Goodreads has collected 3,784 quotes for the interested reader.  For the purposes of this study, the closest such quote might be Peter F. Drucker who distinguishes between management and leadership: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

This paper is focused on creating a scale to measure leadership behaviour in sports.  It discusses the process of reducing the idea of leadership to something manageable; then narrowing further to coaching leadership; and finally to uncovering five factors or elements that make up doing the right things in coaching.  The result is the creation of the Leadership Scale for Sports, an assessment tool that is still popularly used today to measure coaching behaviour and effectiveness.


  • Leadership is an age-old and continuously hot-topic. Leadership theories are nearly as old. But the modern study of leadership theory in sports—other than “The Great Man” leadership theory—is less than 75 years old.
  • As formal organizations, sports teams are most certainly and always in need of theories of leadership.
  • But sports organizations are quite unlike models in business and industry. Sports teams practice seemingly forever yet might play only one hour or so in actual competition; and in the competition there is a winning team/player and a losing team/player; and most teams are only together for three to six months before moving on.
  • What was odd at the time of this paper’s publication (1980) was the absence of any credible scales by which measurement of coaching behavior and effectiveness was possible.
  • This paper describes the manner in which the Leadership Scale for Sports was created.
  • The scale was created by extracting potential scale items from other pre-existing organizational leadership scales, and testing and reducing them with three successive student and athlete surveys (feedback from 485 participants).
  • The result was a 40-item questionnaire identifying five factors relevant to assessing the quality of coaching behavior and effectiveness.
  • The five factors are: Training and InstructionDemocratic Behavior, Autocratic Behavior, Social Support, and Positive Feedback.
  • The LSS (as it is called) has turned out to be one of the most popular and used sports leadership scales in the last 35 years.

The Research

The subject of this research is leadership.  But the specifics of it narrow down to leadership in sport, and more narrowly still to leadership assessment.  In other words, this publication introduces its reader to the manner in which we can measure leader behaviour in sport.

Sports teams are considered to be an instance of a formal organisation.  Sports teams have a specific identity, rosters of members and positions, planned programs and divisions of labor to achieve goals, and the means to transfer or replace its members.

The coach is considered to be the equivalent of the organisation manager since a coach’s role is so varied:  planning, budgeting, scheduling, recruiting, public relations—and leadership.  For the sake of this paper, leadership means someone who is responsible for influencing individuals and groups toward achieving the organisations goals.

Until this study was published, there really wasn’t much attention given to developing any leadership models; and without such a model there was no ostensible interest in figuring out how well coaches were performing—other than simply the bottom line of whether they produced winning teams.  But with the 1978 publication of Chelladurai’s Multidimensional Model of Leadership for coaching behaviour, it was then logical to create a measure of leadership effectiveness in sports contexts.

What was soon realised was that previous leadership scalesdeveloped for organisational leadership were not especially relevant to the unique features of sport.  For example, in sports the teams spend a disproportionate amount of time preparing for a contest maybe only one hour in length; but in business or industry the training is rarely so continuous.  And the reward system in sports is different too from other formal organisations; that is, winning goes to one team and denied to another.  And too, whereas other organisations are formed and maintained over the long haul, sports teams are often assembled for only three to six months.

Leadership scale for sports

Through a sequence of three different testing samples of physical education students and/or athletes totalling 485 participants, the authors of this study were able to help develop and refine the LSS.  The process was to extract items from four existing general leadership scales.  Using the results of one sample to revise the instrument for the second sample, finally an instrument was produced by way of the third sample that became the LSS.  This scale was deemed to be internally consistent, reliable, and a valid scale to measure the dimensions of leadership behaviour in sports.

Five factors using 40 items were found to be the most salient dimensions of coaching behaviour.  They were:  Training and Instruction (13 items); Democratic Behaviour (nine items); Autocratic Behaviour (five items); Social Support (eight items); and Positive Feedback (five items).  There are 40 items in all.  The LSS consists of one task factor (Training and Instruction); two decision-style factors (Democratic and Autocratic Behaviour); two motivational factors (Social Support and Positive Feedback).

Training and Instruction is a factor specific to coaching behaviour that is focused on directly improving athlete performance, including skills, techniques, and tactics.  Democratic Behaviour assesses the extent to which a coach includes the voices of the players in the decision making process about group goal setting and the ways these goals are to be reached.  Autocratic Behaviour is a measure of the distance between the coach and the players.  It includes the way the coach maintains authority and independent decision making.  Social Support refers to the way a coach satisfies the interpersonal needs of the athletes and sets a climate of positive relationships between players and the coaching staff.  Positive Feedback refers to the ways in which a coach creates a positive motivational climate for the team, coupled with reinforcing in positive ways the contributions of all players on the team.

In the end and in 1980 when this paper was published, the authors believed that the LSS could be a useful tool to analyse coaching behaviour and effectiveness in most all sports.  The common denominator is the five universal sport-specific factors.  They believed that this instrument, the Leadership Scale for Sports, had the capability of helping to match a particular leadership style to specific sports situations and contexts.

A copy of the LSS can be found at:

If we fast-forward from 1980 to the current date, it is interesting how accurate these authors were in their confidence that the LSS was a trustworthy way in which to measure coaching behaviour and effectiveness.  In fact, the LSS continues to be one of the most popular scales for assessing coaching behaviour and effectiveness, now over 35 years later.   (See Leadership Scale for Sports – theoretical background and review of psychometric properties research by Zuzanna Wałach-Biśta, Department of Social and Environment Psychology Institute of Psychology, University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland,  in Česká kinantropologie 2014, Vol. 18, No. 3 pp. 67-76).

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