Jeff Janssen doesn’t believe in the adage, “Leaders are born, not made.”
For the past three seasons, Janssen, who is the president and founder of the Janssen Sports Leadership Center, has worked with the LSU volleyball team and every other University athletics program to develop a culture of leadership among its ranks.
The idea is to develop leadership qualities in student athletes through a series of workshops and seminars during the semester.
“A lot is just finding out what’s going on with the team,” Janssen said. “If they’re doing well, I’ll look at what those guys are doing to be good leaders. If there’s any situation or troubleshooting going on, we try to tackle those issues as well.”
Janssen’s program works with 19 different universities across the country, including Michigan, North Carolina and Arkansas. During the program, Janssen said finds what he calls “emerging leaders” and brings them up through his three tiers of leadership until a select few become “360 leaders.”
LSU coach Fran Flory said the improvement she’s seen on and off the court, particularly in empowering her players, has been phenomenal.
“I think women especially are hesitant to step up in leadership roles,” Flory said. “Having somebody from outside to help empower them to step into those roles and understand that, ‘I can hold my teammates and my workers in the future accountable,’ I think we’re not only developing student athletes, I think we’re developing higher management people and people who are going to step into leadership roles at companies in the future.”
The LSU volleyball “Leadership Council” is led by seniors outside hitter Helen Boyle and setter Malorie Pardo. Flory said and the coaching staff selected both as top-tier “360 leaders.”
Flory said she selected Pardo and Boyle for their leadership on and off the court. Flory said Pardo’s position has an inherent leadership aspect. Flory has frequently Pardo’s position as the “quarterback of the offense.”
Boyle said it feels good to be held to such a high regard among the team, and the program is something she wishes she had as a freshman.
“I feel a lot more comfortable talking to everybody on the team, not just certain people that are like me,” Boyle said. “… It’s stuff that you think about, but never really realize is important.”
The rest of the council is junior outside hitters Cati Leak and Katie Lindelow, junior defensive specialist Haley Smith and sophomore middle blocker
Lindelow said the “Leadership Council’s” main goal is discussing team goals and issues in periodic meetings throughout the season. She said there haven’t been any issues for the team yet, but it’s always nice to be prepared in case anything comes up.
“We’re not in this because our team is desperate for behavior control,” Lindelow said. “But it will definitely help us in the future. Any minor problem we have can be handled from within the team.”
Janssen said not every player who enters at the bottom “emerging leaders” tier will move up to the “veteran leaders” or “360 leader” positions. To move up, players must show they’ve developed as a person and leader, and they can handle the increased responsibility that comes with a higher rank.
Flory said her team fully bought into the program from the beginning and she sees it as something that could stick for years to come.
“We talk about leadership in our program as much as anyone in the country, but it’s nice to have a true leadership guy,” Flory said. “Helping them understand those leadership concepts in the gym or the field or the court or whatever it is, that has really helped our team have more confidence in those