How are you doing as a leader? The answer is how are the people you lead doing.
Team leadership is not an easy role for many young student-athletes. Peer leadership is often psychologically uncomfortable and a social challenge. The desire to be liked has been the downfall of many adult leaders. So don’t gloss over the fact that a student-athlete will often be driven by their need to be liked by teammates. Expect the first hurdle for your emerging team leaders to be overcoming the need to be liked. Young leaders have to overcome emotional issues, such as internal conflict—dissonance, because of their strong desire for acceptance. The young leader will at times need to take actions that temporarily separate them from their teammates—the followers—and this holds potential for considerable relational damage. This is but one example of some of the inherent difficulties in peer leadership.
As a coach you present a compelling model that young athletes will intensely observe seeking cues on how they are to lead (wanting to please you) and informing them how to act in a given situation. Team leaders and team members will imitate many of your behaviors and attitudes. They will, for example, watch what you do and then imitate or adapt what you do. The less experienced the team leader the more likely they’ll study you closely to help them figure out “how” you want them to lead. When faced with inconsistencies between what you say and what you do, the young and developing team leader will tend to give greater reliance on what you do.
Your status as a model increases the necessity of having a healthy interpersonal relationship with all your players, but the relationship with team leaders will generally be a little more involved as you assume the role of leadership mentor. Mentors are role models. As a mentor your impact will come from more than just what you tell your team leaders, they will assimilate and emulate many of your behavioral traits and copy many of your values and attitudes.