Definitions And Theories of Teamwork

Keywords: leadership theories, leadership skills, teamwork definition essay

Definition: group cohesion is “a dynamic process which is reflected in the tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its goals.”

Stages of development

There are four stages of development a group will go through but the time it takes to go through each stage is variable. These stages are:

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing


This is when everybody meets for the first time and starts to get to know each other. This stage can be used to test whether or not the team can gel together properly or not. In a team situation the coach may use small games or strategies to ‘break the ice’ between the new group members. This can also be explained as the stage where new team mates get together for the first time in search of a common goal or cause.


In this stage each individual is fighting for there place in the team therefore it can be a stage of very intense intergroup competition. This intense competition may include rebellion against the leader, conflict between individuals or resistance to the way the team is being developed or managed and the tactics that are being adopted.


The players now begin to realise that they are all there aiming for the same goals and therefore either agree on a way of getting on in order to achieve these goals or they leave the group. Now the group starts to cooperate and work together to reach their common goals. The group now pulls together and the roles are established and become more stable.


This is the stage where the relationship between the players is well established and they all pull together with the aim to achieve their common goals. Issues of leadership and strategies are well established and agreed upon. When a new player joins the group a new stage of storming and norming will occur and the new players will either be accepted or rejected. This refreshing of the team can be a good shake up as it prevents the team from going stale. Successful teams seem to be settled and take in two or three new players a year to keep the team fresh but the introduction of too many players can disrupt the team and change the nature of the group completely.

A good example of this is Manchester united in the 1990’s where an influx of youngsters came up through the youth teams and the reserves to the first team. They had already been through the norming stage therefore they knew what norms were expected of them, this is why they achieved so much so quickly. They brought in two or three players each year to keep the team fresh and to help develop the team. The team started to decline in 2001/02 when they signed Juan Sebastian Veron as he was seen to disrupt the group dynamics and reduce the teams effectiveness.

Social/task cohesion

In sport different teams may have different skill levels therefore team cohesiveness may be the difference between two teams that might mak the difference between winning and losing. There are two types of cohesiveness.

Social cohesion

Task cohesion

Social cohesion can be defined as “a general orientation towards developing and maintaining social relationships within a group.”

(Carron, Widmeyer, & Brawley, 1985)

Task cohesion can be defined as “a general orientation towards achieving a groups goals and objectives.”

(Carron, Widmeyer, & Brawley, 1985)

In sports coaches and players, coaches especially, should be more concerned with task cohesion than with social cohesion. An increase in task cohesion can help lead to success. This can be achieved by setting goals. This goal setting can play a major role in the development of the teams task cohesion and it will lead to the development of the players skills. Success is also important in the accomplishment of team cohesion. This success doesn’t have to be winning it can also come in the form of achieving goals that have been set by the team. Goals can help significantly in the development of task cohesion. A good example of a team that has good task cohesion but no social cohesion is the New York Yankees team of the 1970’s when they were constantly bickering but they still went on to win the world series several times.

“The more success a team experiences, the higher the cohesion.”

(Bird, 1977; Carron, 1982).

Carron (1982, 1988) model of cohesion

Albert Carron came up with a system for studying cohesion within sport. This system looks at four areas:

  • Environmental
  • Personal
  • Leadership
  • Team factors


This refers to the normal factors which hold a team together eg contracts and scholarships. Other factors include age and geographic closeness. Having team members of the same age living in the same area increases the opportunities for interaction and communication between the group. The size of the group will also affect cohesion because of the manufacturing of cliques. Smaller groups always tend to be more cohesive than larger groups.


This is in relation to each person within the group; there are major differences between each individual in the group. Carron has split personal factors into 3 separate groups:

  • Demographic attributes eg gender
  • Cognitions and motives eg anxiety
  • Behaviour eg ability to follow rules


This refers to the leadership and behaviour. The role of leaders is important in team cohesion in offering communication towards team goals. Another factor is the relationship between the team and the coach as a good relationship will ensure a more cohesive group.

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This includes desire for group success, group roles, group position and team stability. Carron believed that the longer a team have together and also have a desire for success show higher levels of cohesion. Shared experiences of success or failure are also essential in developing cohesion within the group, as it brings the team closer together.

Model of Cohesion

Cohesion and performance, what comes first?

There have been numerous studies showing that there is a relationship between team cohesiveness and success. The better the team the more cohesive the team. What research has not shown whether or not these successful teams performed well because of the cohesiveness of the team or is the team cohesive because they have shared the experiences of winning. Both of these explanations may be correct. Slater and Sewell (1994) measured team cohesion in sixty university – level hockey players representing three male and three female teams, early, midway and at the end of the season. This research has shown that early success resulted in late cohesion and early success resulted in late success. Slater and Sewell (1994) concluded that while early success related to later cohesiveness, the stronger relationship was between early cohesiveness and later success. They proposed that cohesiveness and success were mutually dependant.

High cohesiveness Greater success Higher cohesiveness

Low cohesiveness Less success Lower cohesiveness

As you can see from the above model, the cohesiveness of a team early on in the season affects the success of the team which in turn affects the cohesiveness of the team later in the season. This study shows why one of the main priorities of a coach is to develop a highly cohesive team.

Team cohesion is shown to be related to a team’s success on the field. Although many studies have found that a team’s cohesion was related to is subsequent performance, many other studies found that team cohesion had very little to do with how successful the team became. Success is related to the type of cohesion that exists within the team. More specifically, if your team has a high level of task cohesion, meaning that they play well together and remain united in the pursuit of the team’s goals, then they are more likely to enjoy success. On the other hand, having a high amount of social cohesion, meaning that the team members are good friends and that they enjoy each other’s company, means very little in the way of predicting your team’s performance. It has even been found that teams who are high in social cohesion play worse as a team. The key is not necessarily that your team members like each other, but that they are united in their efforts to achieve the team goals set forth at the beginning of the season.

Higher levels of team (task) cohesion appear to be related to team success as the season progresses, and as the team becomes more successful, the degree of team cohesion appears to increase as well. Some might say the relationship between team cohesion and team success is a circular system. As team cohesion improves, so does the team’s performance, and as the team’s performance improves, it becomes more and more cohesive.It also appears that the link between a team’s performance and its subsequent cohesion is stronger than the link between the team’s initial cohesion and their performance early on in the season.

The answer, according to previous studies in sport psychology, to the question whether performance or cohesion comes first, is both.

Building an effective team and developing cohesiveness

Team cohesion is shown to be one of the most important factors in a successful team therefore is of vital importance that the coach encourages team cohesion, especially in societies such as Britain and the USA where people can be very self centred and don’t care about the team. Coaches therefore figure out strategies to bring the team together, this is known as team building. Carron et al. (1997) came up with the following steps for team building.

Each player should be acquainted with the responsibilities of the other team members.

As coach, learn something personal about each team member and use it to gain cooperation.

Gain pride in the sub teams within larger teams e.g. the defence

Involve players in decision making to make them feel the team belongs to them.

Set the team goals and celebrate when they are attained.

Teach each team member their responsibilities and convince them of their individual importance.

Allow team members to have disagreements.

Prevent the formation of cliques within the team, by giving every member opportunities to perform and avoiding scapegoating.

Use routines in practice designed to teach team members how dependant they are on each other.

Highlight the positive aspects of play, even when the team is on a losing streak.

Leadership in sport

Definition: leadership can be defined as “the behavioural process of influencing individuals and groups towards set goals.”

(Barrow, 1997)

Trait theory of leadership

Early research on leadership was based on the psychological focus of the day, which was of people having inherited characteristics or traits. Attention was thus put on discovering these traits, often by studying successful leaders, but with the underlying assumption that if other people could also be found with these traits, then they, too, could also become great leaders.

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In the 1920’s researchers tried to show that characteristics were common to all leaders therefore to be a good leader you had to have these qualities inbuilt when you are born. This means that a person who is a good leader in one situation is a good leader in any situation.

McCall and Lombardo (1983) researched both success and failure identified four primary traits by which leaders could succeed or ‘derail’:

  • Emotional stability and composure: Calm, confident and predictable, particularly when under stress.
  • Admitting error: Owning up to mistakes, rather than putting energy into covering up.
  • Good interpersonal skills: Sble to communicate and persuade others without resort to negative or coercive tactics.
  • Intellectual breadth: Able to understand a wide range of areas, rather than having a narrow (and narrow-minded) area of expertise.

McCall and Lombardo (1983)

Stogdill (1974) identified the following traits and skills as critical to leaders.


  • Adaptable to situations
  • Alert to social environment
  • Ambitious and achievement-orientated
  • Assertive
  • Cooperative
  • Decisive
  • Dependable
  • Dominant (desire to influence others)
  • Energetic (high activity level)
  • Persistent
  • Self-confident
  • Tolerant of stress
  • Willing to assume responsibility
  • Clever (intelligent)
  • Conceptually skilled
  • Creative
  • Diplomatic and tactful
  • Fluent in speaking
  • Knowledgeable about group task
  • Organised (administrative ability)
  • Persuasive
  • Socially skilled

Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) identified eight characteristics which are associated with successful leadership. They are: drive, honesty, motivation to lead, self-confidence, intelligence, expertise in the purpose of the group, creativity and flexibility. Kirkpatrick and Locke then concluded that “inspirational leaders do not need to be great men or women by being intellectual geniuses or omniscient prophets but they do need to have the ‘right stuff’ and this stuff isn’t equally present in all people”

Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991)

Behavioural theory

This theory states that anybody can be a good leader by learning the behaviour of an effective leader therefore this theory says that the qualities of a good leader can be learned and developed through training and experience, contradictory to the trait theory this one is saying that good leaders are made and not born.

As early researchers ran out of information in their research in personal traits of leaders, they turned to what leaders did, how they behaved and especially towards their followers. They moved from leaders to leadership and this became the dominant way of approaching leadership in the 1950s and early 1960s. Different patterns of behaviour were grouped together and labelled as styles. A variety of schemes appeared, designed to identify and develop people’s style of working. Despite different names for these schemes, the basic ideas were very similar. The four main styles that appear are:

· Concern for task. Here leaders put emphasis on the achievement of concrete objectives (achievement of goals). They look for high levels of productivity, and ways to organize people and activities in order to meet those objectives.

· Concern for people. In this style, leaders look upon their followers as people and can identify their needs, interests, problems, development and so on and be able to work around these to get the best out of them. They are not simply units of production or means to an end.

· Directive leadership. This style is characterized by leaders making decisions for others and expecting followers to follow instructions, such as a team captain on the pitch giving instructions to the rest of the players on the field.

· Participative leadership. Here leaders try to share decision-making with the rest of the players but when the need arises that a decision has to be made quickly then his attention turns back to directive leadership.

Many of the early researchers that looked to participative and people-centred leadership argued that it brought about greater satisfaction amongst followers. However, as Sadler (1997) reports, ‘when researchers really got to work on this it didn’t seem to stand up’. There were lots of differences and inconsistencies between studies. It was difficult to say style of leadership was significant in enabling one group to work better than another. The main problem may have been one shared with those who looked for traits. The researchers did not look properly at the context or setting which the style was used in. Is it possible that the same style would work as well in a group of friends? The styles that leaders can adopt are far more affected by those they are working with, and the environment they are working within, than had been originally thought.

Interactional approach

The interactional approach looks at the interaction between the person and the situation rather than the personality of the leader. This approach stresses the following points:

  • Effective leaders can’t be predicted solely on personality.
  • Effective leadership fits specific situations, as some leaders function better in certain circumstances than others.
  • Leadership style needs to change to suit the situation

A good example of the way this theory works is; relationship orientated leaders develop interpersonal relationships, provide god communication and ensure everyone is feeling good within the group. However, task orientated leaders are concerned with getting the work done and meeting objectives.

Stafford – Browne et el. (2003)

Critics argued that the continued focus on the leader, rather than the situation where leadership takes place, provided a limited view of leadership. This is why an interactional approach to leadership was developed. This took into account the leader, the situation at the time, the type of people who are being led and the interaction between them. This interactional approach is examined in the work of both Fiedler and Chelladurai.

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Fred E. Fiedler’s contingency theory says that there is no best way for managers to lead. Situations will create different leadership style requirements for a manager. The solution to a managerial situation is reliant on the factors that are imposed on the situation. E.g. a coach may have to act on a situation such as player getting injured. He/she must get the suitable replacement. This is not planned it is an unexpected situation that has arisen and must be dealt with.

(Woods 2001)

Fiedler’s Contingency model

Fiedler’s model assumes that group performance depends on:

Leadership style, described in terms of task motivation and relationship motivation.

Situational favourableness, determined by three factors:

1. Leader-member relations – Degree to which a leader is accepted and supported by the group members.

2. Task structure – Extent to which the task is structured and defined, with clear goals and procedures.

3. Position power – The ability of a leader to control subordinates through reward and punishment.

High levels of these three factors give the most favourable situation, low levels, the least favourable. Relationship-motivated leaders are most effective in moderately favourable situations. Task-motivated leaders are most effective at either end of the scale.

Fiedler suggests that it may be easier for leaders to change their situation to achieve effectiveness, rather than change their leadership style.

A good example of this approach was with Brian Mc Eniff when he won the 1992 All Ireland final with Donegal but has failed to do so since with rows in the camp between mentors and players. The leader was powerful but the relationship wasn’t warm therefore pressure took its toll and he had to resign.

Multidimensional model of sport leadership

In 1978 Chelladurai proposed a multidimensional model of leadership developed on the basis of leadership theories and their effectiveness. Performance outcomes and satisfaction could be achieved by effective leader behaviours. This means that if things aren’t going particularly well the leader must stand and be counted and motivate his players to succeed. In this case the coach has to be able to change his leadership style to suit the situation.

This model says that if a leader behaves appropriately for the particular situation and these behaviours match the preferences of the group then they will achieve their goals.

The model

Antecedents Leader behaviour Consequences

4. required behaviour

1. situational characteristics

7. performance satisfaction

5. actual behaviour

2. leader characteristics

6. preferred behaviour

3. member characteristics

Situational characteristics

The characteristics of the situation the group is in such as; size, type of sport or winning or losing,

Leader characteristics

The personal qualities of the leader such as; confidence, intelligence, assertiveness and self-motivation.

Member characteristics

The different personalities of different types of athletes such as; age, gender, ability and experience.

Required behaviour

The type of characteristics required from a leader in a particular situation. For example if a team is losing with 5mins to go, is it better for the leader to make the decision himself or discuss it with the group?

Actual behaviour

This is the behaviour the leader actually displays

Preferred behaviour

The preferred leadership of the team depending on the situation.

Performance satisfaction

This is the extent to which the team is satisfied with the performance of the group under this leader.

A good example of this approach was with Brian Kerr when he was in charge of the Irish soccer team. He had a mix of different approaches between autocratic and democratic. Normally he was democratic with his more senior players making decisions and enforcing leadership. When things weren’t going to plan though he stepped in as the autocratic leader to set things right again.

Leadership styles

There are a number of different leadership styles that I will look at, some more successful than others. The different types of leader are;

Autocratic authoritarian

Democratic leadership

Laissez – faire

Autocratic authoritarian

This type of leader dictates to the group, he doesn’t ask for advice, comments or ideas from the group. He is the one who makes all of the decisions. This leadership style has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that the members of the group can be directed towards purposeful actions even when stressed and exhausted. The disadvantage is that wise group members do not have the chance to input useful information into the group and thus they may find it difficult to motivate themselves.

Democratic leadership

This type of leadership encourages the involvement of the whole group as individuals and as a group. Participants are encouraged to give feedback, ideas and to help make decisions. If the group leader were to be absent then the group would be efficient enough to continue what they were doing on their own. The bad side of this style is that it can cause trouble when decisions need to be made quickly in an emergency. This type of leadership is usually the most successful.

Laissez – faire

This style of leadership encourages group independence in the sense that the group makes their own decisions, the leader only gets involved when the group gets into difficulties or in cases of emergency. Lewin (1939) found that this type of group tended to become more aggressive with each other when things went wrong. Leaders in this type of group often fail to motivate the members of the group and fail to deal with a crisis.

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