The Servant-Athlete: Examining Servant-Leadership in Sport




Primrose, Richard

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This qualitative case study explored the philosophy of servant-leadership in the context of sport, specifically from the perspective of an athletic leader, or servant-athlete. The primary purpose of the research was to identify traits of a servant-athlete—who for the purpose of this case study was Canadian professional basketball player Steve Nash—with the secondary purpose being to look at some formative childhood experiences, which may have shaped the servant-athlete’s leadership style. The primary method of data collection was an academic interview, with other sources of media being used to triangulate the findings. Findings suggested that the servant-athlete would be a team player, who leads by building relationships, practicing compassion, empathy, and self-awareness, and ultimately serving the needs of his teammates. It was found that childhood experiences with service—particularly related to the parents—played a large role in influencing the servant-athlete’s leadership philosophy. Rich commentary from the academic interview spoke to the themes identified, and provided evidence of servant-leadership being a viable leadership philosophy in sport.



servant-leadership, servant-athlete, athletic leadership, Steve Nash