Scarred for the Rest of My Career? Career-Long Effects of Abusive Leadership on Professional Athlete Aggression and Task Performance

J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2016 Aug;38(4):409-422. doi: 10.1123/jsep.2015-0333. Epub 2016 Sep 16.


Based on the contention that leadership has sustained effects on followers even after the leader-follower relationship has ended, we investigated the career-long effects of abusive coach leadership on athlete aggression and task performance. Abusive leadership scores were derived from ratings by two independent raters' evaluations of coaches' biographies, and athlete aggression and task performance data were derived from objective sources. Data were obtained from players (N = 693) and coaches (N = 57) involved in the National Basketball Association (NBA) between the 2000-2001 and 2005-2006 seasons. Controlling for tenure, salary, team winning percentage, and absence due to injuries, multilevel modeling showed that exposure to abusive leadership influenced both the trajectory of psychological aggression and task performance over players' careers. These findings suggest that the effects of abusive leadership extend far longer than currently acknowledged, thus furthering our understanding of the nature and effects of abusive leadership.

Keywords: abusive supervision; aggression; leadership; task performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Athletes / psychology*
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Athletic Performance / statistics & numerical data
  • Basketball / psychology*
  • Basketball / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Young Adult