Leading together towards a stronger ‘us’: An experimental test of the effectiveness of the 5R Shared Leadership Program (5RS) in basketball teams

Niels Mertens, Filip Boen, Nikalas Steffens, Stewart Cotterill, Alexander Haslam, Katrien Fransen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Leadership has been suggested to be a key factor in gaining a competitive advantage as a team, with shared leadership being a better predictor of team functioning than vertical leadership. Although the benefits of shared leadership are well-documented, evidence about how to implement a shared leadership structure remains sparse. This leaves coaches with three key challenges: (1) identifying the best leaders; (2) defining what roles those leaders should fulfill; and (3) developing their leadership skills. Solutions to these challenges have
been proposed in the 5R Shared Leadership Program (5RS) — a leadership development program that seeks to implement an effective structure of shared leadership within sports teams.
To test the effectiveness of 5RS program, we conducted an experimental-comparison group intervention in which eight national-level basketball teams (N=96) completed a questionnaire at two points in time (i.e., pre and posttest). The teams in the intervention condition completed the 5RS program, in which we identified the leadership structure in their teams (through Shared Leadership Mapping), appointed the best leaders in their leadership role, and then developed their identity leadership skills.
The results revealed that the 5RS program was successful in strengthening athlete leaders’ identity leadership skills, and as a result also team members’ identification with their team. Furthermore, in contrast to athletes in the comparison condition, athletes in the 5RS condition were able to maintain their levels of intrinsic motivation and commitment to team goals, while also reporting improved well-being.
The present study provides encouraging evidence that, by implementing a structure of shared leadership and by promoting athlete leaders’ identity leadership skills, the 5RS program is able to improve the team’s functioning and the well-being of its members.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)770-775
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2020


  • Athlete leadership
  • Leadership development
  • Shared leadership
  • Team functioning
  • 2020

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