• Home
  • Articles
  • Management – the Misunderstood and Unappreciated Skill Set for Administrators

Management – the Misunderstood and Unappreciated Skill Set for Administrators

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA on February 02, 2021 hst Print

In graduate classes during four semesters of an athletic management master’s degree program at a college, students were asked to make a list of all the tasks and responsibilities that would be part of a high school athletic director’s position. This would include the smallest insignificant items to the largest visionary projects – in a word, everything that an athletic administrator does. Depending upon the background of the students, some lists were longer and more detailed, but all were extensive and contained many items.

During this session, students were given examples of what constituted leadership, and a quick overview of the aspects of management were also presented. Everyone in class was then given 10 minutes to put an ‘L’ in front of all items that pertained to leadership and a ‘M’ for those that represented management. After totaling each category and dividing by the total number of items, a percentage was obtained for both leadership and management aspects.

While there might have been a few associated responsibilities that possibly could go either way, the results indicated that 15 percent of an athletic administrator’s duties fell under the label of leadership and 85 percent constituted management. Since this effort did not use a random sampling, it would not qualify as scientific research. One might label the process as a representative sampling, but it did provide a unique distinction and clarification for these students.

Even when considering a margin of error, management tasks and responsibilities far outweighed those associated with leadership. And this point should also provide food for thought as to what exactly is involved in an athletic administrator’s position and what should be considered to possibly readjust a little.

Is there anything wrong with wanting to improve one’s leadership skills? No, this is definitely a worthy goal. However, leadership is a current buzz word and seemingly everyone and anyone writes a book on the topic. It’s leadership according to … and leadership this and steps to improve your leadership. However, an administrator must also be aware of the importance of management skills and work to improve those skills as well.

Management is often broken into four components: planning, organizing, directing and controlling. In these segments, one would also include allocating funds and overseeing human resources that would include staffing, development and mentoring. Some individuals might also include evaluation in the mix, and effective communication may be considered as a necessary additional requisite. But essentially, management entails these aspects.

On the other hand, leadership involves encouraging, guiding and influencing, and it doesn’t have to be overt and dynamic. Leadership can also be quiet and subtle. It can be done successfully by serving as an example and role model, and not actually uttering a single word. But these elements are uniquely different from management. Even though administrators may use leadership and management skills, they are not one and the same.

What can be done, therefore, to improve the management skills of athletic administrators?

  • Come to the realization and accept the fact that management plays a huge role in your position. This is a good, logical first step. And also, don’t use the terms of leadership and management interchangeably. They are distinctly different.
  • Mirror the assignment of the graduate students, which was described earlier, and make your own list of your tasks and responsibilities. With this list in hand, label everything as either leadership or management. If need be, call a colleague and debate a few of the items that may not be clearcut, but do take an honest look at the percentages involved in your position.
  • Analyze what aspects of management – planning, organizing, directing, controlling, budgeting, developing staff, evaluating and becoming more effective with communication – could use improvement for you personally. And it could be more than one item; and if this is the case, prioritize.
  • Make it a practice to read professional magazines and journals that encompass the topic of management. Some are more general in nature and others are fairly specific dealing with a particular aspect. If you can find one helpful article in an issue, however, it may boost your effectiveness.
  • Pick up and occasionally read a book on management. While there may not be as many available as those written on leadership, some do exist. And anything featuring the concepts and ideas of Peter Drucker, who was a leading expert and founder of the modern theory of management.
  • Participate in professional conferences and attend sessions that feature management topics. If you don’t find pertinent topics on the schedule, offer suggestions for next year. Most conferences ask for ideas for future sessions in their post-conference evaluation. If you take this opportunity to provide suggestions, topics will be presented that will help meet your professional development needs.
  • Contact and network with your colleagues. They may excel in certain aspects of management and it would be extremely wise to seek their advice and to borrow their already established best practices. Most professionals are willing to help and, of course, you should also reciprocate when possible.
  • Communicate occasionally with your staff and share with them that your position involves more than leadership. Many would be surprised to know that a great number of your tasks and responsibilities fall under the heading of management. This effort may help those who report to you to develop a better understanding and appreciation of what actually is involved in your job. This step alone is invaluable.

While these suggestions and steps are extremely important and should be useful, at least come to an appreciation that leadership isn’t the only skill set that is necessary to succeed as an administrator. Whether the percentage is 80 or 85 percent in your setting, management plays a huge role in your position. This means that you better also try to improve and enhance this skill set. It’s not just leadership, but it is OK to try to become a better leader as long as you are also equally focused on management.