building skillsThere are things that great programmes and great athletes do that are different than others. Its what makes them go from good to great. With almost 30 years in this industry, we’ve seen and experienced some key differentiators around the world in our roles as athletes, coaches, business owners, event producer, and cheer moms (mums!). If you want to be average, stop reading now.

If you want to learn the secrets of the most effective leadership components of cheerleading, dance (and life), know this:  Leadership is a skill- and just like tumbling and stunting,  you can be and should be continuously building your leadership skills.  So here you go, in no particular order:

1) Make it about them.  When you want to motivate others to a particular behavior, its not about persuading them to do what you want them to do, and its not about barking orders or yelling with your outside voice. Its really about helping others polish their own reasons for performing a certain behavior- the positive one you want. When they get to focus on their own reasons, instead of your mandated ones, they will believe more deeply and adhere better. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice:”] Help athletes or teammates articulate what matters to them, and truly listen. Ask open-ended questions, focus on the present and future instead of the past, and help them set goals- not that you define, but that they define. Then, simply help them in their own journey to those goals and dreams they have for themselves (as a friend, a teammate, a coach, or a parent). [/content_box]

2) Make it clear.  Effective leaders make things clear. There is no equivocation about why they do what they do, so over time, that builds tremendous trust. Effective leaders also help bring clarity to the team circumstance: They help everyone recognize and turn off the “noise,” so they can instead focus together on what truly matters.[content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In Practice:”] Life can have a lot of static. Turn off the chaos by giving it zero weight in your day and practice time.  Make sure your athletes, teammates, parents, and staff see, hear, and witness why you do what you do. Coaches, do not assume they auto-magically know you do this because you want to make a life-long positive impact for them. (They probably think its just your job as a coach). Cheerleaders, do not assume your teammates know how much you love them and cherish them. Parents, same thing with your kiddos.  Tell them. Show them. Remind them. Rinse, repeat. [/content_box]

3) Teach and Protect.  You’ll hear us say this over and over again if you attend a Legacy comp, or if we work with you on a staff leadership day or speak to your gym family: You cannot teach without learning, and you cannot truly protect without loving. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice:”] In all you do, may your actions and purposeful inactions be guided by the calling to teach and protect others. This is how all the drama goes away. (see #9) [/content_box]

4) Make it Fun.  The science shows us that the most successful athletes and even corporate leaders have matched talent with a lot of time. If its not fun, you’ll never get in that much time, and you’ll never be the most successful at whatever it is you are doing. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice:”] Its our number one rule. You should be so clear on your “why you do what you do” that even the sweatiest of all sweaty practices is FUN. Pushing yourself to things you thought you could never do…is FUN. Encouraging your teammates…is FUN.  Incorporating games….is FUN. Even when you are a Level 5 team, perfecting the straight cradle all day in practice is fun because perfect straight cradles=perfect double downs=one more step to maximizing scoresheets=one more step closer to winning, which is….FUN. [/content_box]

5) They ASK. Effective leaders ask questions and encourage questions. They’ll recognize their own expertise, but they are always humbly driven to learn the next thing and to innovate for the greater good. They’ll encourage others to challenge them, and they’ll reply in ways that yes: teach and protect. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice:”] Research shows that great leaders, even as children, had a higher propensity to ask questions and respectfully challenge the status quo or authority. Asking (at the right time, and in the right way) encourages productive conversation, greater innovation, and higher understanding…. all of which leads to smarter decision-making, greater compliance and accountability, greater effort, and greater results on the blue mat and off. [/content_box]

6) SCHT!! Decades of Gallup research proves that great leaders regularly provide 4 specific things to those who loyally follow: Stability, Compassion, Hope and Trust.  They are demonstrated, not talked about. They are woven into everything they do, and chose not to do, for the greatest interest of all, not solely their own. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice”] With every drill, parent conversation, directive, social media post, conflict navigation, teaching moment, and so on… ask yourself: am I providing stability? hope? compassion? or building trust? [/content_box]

7) Use the F-word.  No, not that one. They use “failure” as  powerful teaching tools. They make the purposeful choices to use moments of miss into fuel for getting up and going again. But here’s the key: Its not about just going again. Its about seeking the lessons in order to make adjustments…. and then go again, only better. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice”] Teach both the power of making positive personal emotional choices by helping others see the opportunities that arise from failures. You will “miss” far more than you make, so use that not to pain you, but to move you. Watch film, get better. Talk about it, get better. Visualize it done perfectly, get better. Left weights, get stronger, get better. Experience it, get better. You get the idea. [/content_box]

8) Set High Expectations for Themselves.  Effective programs and effective people start off by setting clear, high standards for themselves. They hold themselves accountable, and surround themselves with people who will help hold themselves accountable.  Then, and only then, have they earned the right to have the same expectations for their teammates, athletes, and entire gym family. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice”] Its your program mission statement, or your life’s mission statement…but not just in a manual somewhere. If you set the bar low, you’ll get there. When you set the bar high, you will achieve great, great things. Don’t be average. [/content_box]

9) No Drama, All Love. This is simple for great leaders, yet all too easy to slip. The policy is: Do. not. engage. in. the. drama. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice”] Its difficult. Lots of personalities and lots of change amongst a sport and people we are passionate about and love. When in doubt, refer to #3. And keep practicing. [/content_box]

10) Build More Great Leaders.  The most effective leaders aren’t building more followers. They are building more great leaders for life. [content_box style=”teal-2″ title=”In practice”] Cheerleaders are not competitive cheerleaders forever. But we can be growing, impactful leaders for life. It doesn’t happen by magic wand. Start by believing in yourself, and each other first. Then faithfully apply work, humility, laughter, compassion, and a little more work. Oh, the places you’ll go…. [/content_box]

As always, we’re cheering you on.

Aly & Andrea

PS- Now is the time:  If you plan on attending any Legacy comp or event, you can begin entering your programme information and rosters now (without fully registering yet)! It is very easy:  You are not obligated to complete registration, nor are you charged anything when you apply to add your programme to the system. It just allows you to get a head start and make it easy. To get started, click here.

The Legacy Online Registration system allows you to enter your programme information and rosters once, and lasts forever unless you want to edit. Then, when you are ready to register for an event later, simply click the teams and athletes you want to name for each team from your existing roster. Its that easy!  Click here to see a video about how it all works.

[minimal_icon style=”users” url=”” target=”_self” lightbox_content=”” lightbox_description=””] If you would like to use this article in your own magazine, newsletter, or blog, just email us: [mailto][/mailto] here. With permission, you can copy this article, as long as you credit and include the following in the post:  Identical twins Aly Calvo and Andrea Kulberg, M.Ed are leadership development experts, consultants, and event producers in the cheerleading industry. They are former University of Texas cheerleaders, and former NCA Staff. Andrea served as the International Representative for USASF, and is in the IASF Hall of Fame. Aly and Andrea are co-founders of  The CheerLEAD℠ Interactive (USA) and Legacy Cheer and Dance (UK). They have been named among the best business coaches in the country and among the “Top 50 Women to Follow on Twitter.” For more information about Aly & Andrea in the USA, click here or find them on Facebook or Twitter. (UK followers: Facebook, Twitter, or IG) 407-710-8989 (USA) or 0207.993.2228 (UK).[/minimal_icon]