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Episode 056 – Executive Director at The Center for Sport Leadership Dr. Carrie LeCrom

Posted on Jun 29, 2017 by in Podcast Episode | 0 comments


Dr. LeCrom stops by to talk about sports diplomacy overseas, how athletic directors and presidents interact, and the two traits every great leader she knows possesses.


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Hey everyone and welcome to the All-Star Leader Podcast, where together we learn about leadership from the best and brightest, and keep it fun by connecting it to our passion for sports!

I’m your host Daniel Hare, and today we are privileged to be joined by the Executive Director of the Center for Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Carrie LeCrom.

Dr. LeCrom has published in a number of academic journals including the Journal of Sport Management and Sport in Society, and much of her research centers around the role of sport in diplomacy and developing social change. She also authored a paper in 2016 which we’ll get into titled Exploring Interactions Between NCAA Division I Athletic Directors and University Presidents: A Qualitative Study From Athletic Directors’ Perspective.

Dr. LeCrom was herself a student-athlete, earning both athletic and academic All-American honors while competing in soccer at Lynchburg College.  This is Dr. Carrie LeCrom; Dr. LeCrom thank you so much for joining us!

Interview Questions:

  1. So first things first how much soccer do you get to play these days?
    1. Rusty
    2. Stopped playing a couple of years back; all running now
  2. As we alluded to in the intro, you’ve led some remarkable initiatives using sports as a vehicle to engage with other countries and cultures. Can you tell us more about that?
    1. One of the best parts of the job
    2. 2006 – friend brought some Ethiopia coaches to the U.S. and asked her to do some leadership training with them; taken off from there
    3. Many are funded by the State Department
    4. Four part project in August: Kazakhstan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India
    5. (Prior episodes with guests doing international/sports work: Craig Esherick, Kelli Masters, Alicia Jessop)
  3. What has been the most gratifying accomplishment or moment of those initiatives?
    1. Started as coaches training (train the trainer model)
    2. Now helping people use sports to impact their community
      1. Worked with coaches/sport administrators in South Africa
      2. Programs deal with teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS
      3. See programs take off
  4. Working in sports has become more and more popular over the years, with graduate and undergraduate programs popping up all over the country. Tell us a bit about how you see the sports leadership/management field, and talk about what’s unique about the Sports Leadership program at VCU.
    1. Who doesn’t want to work in sports?
    2. Concerning because there are so many programs educating more students than the market can support
    3. VCU is masters/doctoral program only; so focused only on grad students, all of whom have graduate assistantships (i.e. getting hands on work experience)
    4. This makes you look better, and makes you a better candidate
    5. Make course content super practical; most students are wanting to work in the industry. Partner with organization who needs some consulting work, and turn the students into consultants. This requires students to be professional and put together a practical work product.
  5. For those listening who might be future VCU students, what traits do the successful students you have had possess, and what advice would you give them?
    1. Highly self-motivated
    2. Willing to try new things
    3. Positive/good attitude
    4. Book resource: Carol Dweck – Mindset (AFFILIATE) – nobody likes everything about their job, so how you approach those things you don’t love is really important
    5. Communicate via writing
    6. Soft skills are controllable
  6. I want to let you teach us a bit out of one of your recent publications. I mentioned in the intro you wrote an article in 2016 titled Exploring Interactions Between NCAA Division I Athletic Directors and University Presidents: A Qualitative Study From Athletic Directors’ Perspective. (Link to the full study – requires account); Abstract/Summary.
    1. First of all give us the broad overview of this paper, and what you were looking at.
      1. Very little research on these individuals who are the leaders of the field
      2. NCAA was moving into stronger presidential/institutional control at this time
      3. How do you create a strong relationship between presidents and ADs?
      4. Interviewed ADs for this paper; working on a second paper based on interviews with presidents
      5. (Principles applicable to various types of relationships)
    2. Something caught my eye in the context you established early on in the paper that I thought was worth exploring further before getting into the main point. Could you go into transformational leadership vs. servant leadership, and why the research points toward one in athletic directors as potentially more effective?
      1. Came from past research on college athletics
      2. She doesn’t love characterizing leadership into these defined buckets
      3. Transformational leadership focuses on the good of the organization over your own interest, whereas Servant Leadership focuses on the need of the followers
        1. Servant leadership brings more ethics and you don’t lose sight of who your serving, so this type has been shown recently as the preferred type
    3. After interviewing these ADs and analyzing their responses, there were four themes that emerged. What were the four themes and then let’s talk about each of them?
      1. Trust/Communication – It was interesting how “Walter” described developing trust/communication the same way a coach does with a kid. Can you expand on that?
        1. You can’t just give directives and expect trust to be there; rare for a coach to go into a practice and just start directing.
        2. Coaches need to establish relationship of trust and open communication before you start directing.
      2. Trust/Communication – What is the “no surprise” rule?
        1. Came up over and over again
        2. President doesn’t want to learn about some major athletics issue from someone else
        3. Don’t want president to be caught off guard by something they haven’t already heard from the AD
        4. Social media makes this a bit trickier with how fast news can fly, and it can be hard to figure out which items are big enough to share with the president.
        5. Important to communicate so they can figure out how this rule works for them.
      3. Alignment – Talk about alignment and how the ADs viewed getting on the same page with the president’s vision.
        1. Sometimes athletics gets a bad rap for being a rouge department; but every AD mentioned how athletics is just one part of the bigger picture of the university, and how they have to be in alignment with what the presidents want for the university
        2. If they know what the president wants, the AD can make better decisions
      4. Respect for expertise – What does it mean to “stay in your lane?”
        1. Another term that came up multiple times
        2. You hire me to do this job, so let me do it
        3. ADs don’t go over to the Deans and tell them how to run their colleges, and expect to be treated likewise; ADs are the experts and should be empowered to work in their lane.
        4. This goes both ways.
        5. Many campuses have a President’s Council where there is planning amongst the leaders of campus including both academics and athletics, so there can be a place for that.
      5. Formal and Informal Relationships – How were the ADs defining each type and what is important about each?
        1. Formal – AD report to president, so regular meetings and reports
        2. Informal – AD and president have a relationship outside the formal structure; play pickup basketball, meals, etc. Not necessarily friends, just more time together than what the formal structure would generally provide.
    4. What was the biggest surprise you found in this research? What are some key takeaways?
      1. Consistency of the message from the ADs
      2. Relationships are complex and are hard to implement, though the big picture might appear simple
  7. Rapid Fire Questions (one word/phrase answers)
    1. Name one trait or characteristic you want to see in a colleague.
      1. Respect for each other
    2. What habit has been key to your success?
      1. Showing up and following through / consistency and reliability are undervalued
    3. Most important app or productivity tool?
      1. Google Drive/shared drives
    4. Resource recommendation (book, podcast, etc.)
      1. Harvard Business Review IdeaCast
    5. One bit of parting advice for our audience?
      1. Two things she has found in successful leaders: never stop learning and value relationships over everything else

Thank Yous/Acknowledgements:

  1. Antioch Live/Clear Day Media Group – music
    1. More here.
  2. Jonathan Davis – production
  3. Clint Musslewhite – voice over

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