It May Not Be The Coach

Every year Sportscenter covers teams where ownership makes the decision to change a coach, a GM, or both seeking to change the overall culture of their team. In the sports world, as well as in the organizational world, there is an assumption that systemic issues of culture stem from the leadership overseeing the given culture. Is this a proper assumption, though?

Leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin (Schein, 2010). One does not really exist without the other, and the both have a direct effect on the other. Culture is personality of an organization (Kane-Urrabazo, 2006) which most leaders recognize, however they often fail to realize what a direct impact they have in shaping it (Kane-Urrabazo, 2006). An organization’s culture is developed from those things that are collectively valued, languages and symbols used, procedures and routines adopted, definitions of success, as well as the leadership that exists.

Where the assumption may get skewed is when the positional leadership in place is the only leadership being considered. There are times and situations where the leadership that is building and effecting culture is not in a given position of leadership, but in a non-positional influencer who others follow. Anyone within an organization who facilitates progress toward some desired outcome is displaying leadership (Schein, 2010). Though the positional leadership in place is often the main architects of culture, and though the determine the kind of leadership that exists and are responsible for righting the ship when dysfunction arises within the organization (Cameron & Quinn, 2011), it is important to keep in mind that leadership influence does transcend the positional leadership in place.

Unfortunately, for some professional teams, the revolving door of coaches seems to not effectively change the culture that exists within the team, because there are other influencers. Sorry Cleveland Browns.


Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011). Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture: Based on the Competing Values Framework (3 edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kane-Urrabazo, C. (2006). Management’s role in shaping organizational culture. Journal of Nursing Management, 14(3), 188–194.

Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from

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