How Much Does Poor Leadership Cost You?

By Jeff Janssen, Janssen Sports Leadership Center

Have you ever considered what ineffective team captains might cost you in terms of lost games, corrosive cultures, wasted workouts, and bad team chemistry?

Because effective leadership is so valuable to success, many in the business world actually quantify the cost of ineffective leadership by putting a hard dollar figure on it. For example, DDI, a leading researcher in the corporate world, has created a Cost of Poor Leadership Calculator.

According to their calculations, one poor leader costs a company more than $126,000.00 over the course of a year due to low productivity, turnover, and dissension. Ouch!!!

Have you ever wondered what poor leadership on behalf of ineffective captains might cost you during a season in terms of time, energy, frustration, lost sleep, and wins?

To get some kind of rough estimate on what poor leadership costs you, think about the number of hours you spend each season dealing with the hassles and headaches of ineffective leadership...

While we can’t easily or exactly put a monetary price on the cost of poor leadership, consider the following questions:

- How many close games have you lost because your leaders didn’t maintain your team’s focus, confidence, and poise under pressure?

- How many of your seasons have been short-circuited because your leaders failed to establish and enforce the high standards in practices, weights, and conditioning necessary for success?

- How many conflicts, chemistry problems, and major dramas could have been prevented on your team if you had a leader who was willing to address or alert you to the issues?

- How many black eyes and other embarrassing situations could have been averted if you had a leader step up, speak out, and hold people accountable rather than succumb to peer pressure?

The Leadership Factor =                            Plus/Minus 33%

While it is difficult to measure, my best estimate is that leadership is a plus or minus 33% factor in the sports world. (The above-mentioned DDI Calculator uses an even higher figure of 40% in the business world so consider 33% a conservative estimate.)

What I mean by this is that poor leadership could cause your team to lose up to 1/3 more of your games than with average leadership. And, your team could win 1/3 more games with great leadership. Just stop and think about that for a second...

Put practically, a team with average talent and average leadership may end up 15-15 in a 30 game season. That same team with average talent but poor leadership could end up with a 10-20 record. And finally, that same team with average talent but great leadership could end up 20-10.

Leadership Factor = Plus/Minus 33%

Average Talent + Poor Leadership = 10-20 Record

Average Talent + Average Leadership = 15-15 Record

Average Talent + Great Leadership = 20-10 Record


Ask any college basketball team if they would rather be 10-20, 15-15, or 20-10 heading into Selection Sunday in March.

Ask any college football team what kind of bowl game they would go to with a record of 4-8, 6-6, or 8-4.

Monetarily, this difference is super significant and measurable at the college level as the 4-8 team has no bowl revenue and a great deal of difficulty selling tickets next year coming off a losing season. The 6-6 team will be in a minor bowl game with a roughly $3 million dollar payout. And the 8-4 team will be in a reputable bowl game with a $6 million dollar payout - with ticket sales looking promising.)

Ask any coach of any sport at the high school, club, college, or pro level what his/her job satisfaction or security would be like with 1/3 more or less wins

The coach with 1/3 less wins is potentially on the "hot seat" and the coach with 1/3 more wins is likely being named Coach of the Year and signing a contract extension.

The Off Field/Court/Track Cost of Poor Leadership

Further, the Leadership Factor of plus or minus 33% just pertains to a team’s record – which is only part of the equation.

Think about how the quality of your athletes’ leadership affects your team’s and school’s reputation…

- What are a school’s chances of having someone get hurt because of underage drinking or drunk driving due to a lack of responsible leaders?

- How many incidents of hazing and dangerous initiation rituals could be prevented if leaders stood up and said, “No, that’s not right!”?

- How many cases of social media problems, academic ineligibility, drug problems, steroid use, unintended pregnancy, bullying, etc. could be minimized each year if a caring peer leader was willing to confront and redirect a teammate earlier?

When it comes to leadership, it’s not just games and trophies that are at stake here but team, school, and community reputations, coaches’ and athletic administrators’ careers, and young people’s futures and lives!

As you can see, there is an often overlooked but important emotional, financial, and human COST with poor leadership.

And numerous, over-arching, long-term BENEFITS with effective leadership.

What is the Leadership Factor on your team?

-33%... 0%... or +33%


What does poor leadership cost you?

What does great leadership afford you?

Because leadership is such an important intangible, be sure to invest in your leaders – not only because it will help you win more, but more so because it is the right thing to do. You'll find that having strong leaders is your team's best insurance policy and deterrent against the problems that disrupt, distract, and destroy too many seasons, careers, and lives.

If you are looking to proactively prevent these problems of poor leadership or need to address them, check out our Sports Leadership Development Series and our Leadership Programs.


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