‘The only person you can delegate tasks to is yourself’: Leadership challenges and turnover in national federations of sport


Hans Erik Næss1 & Tor Anders Hanssen2
1 Kristiania University College; 2 Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

Between 2015 and 2019, 52 per cent of the Secretary Generals (SGs) of Norwegian sport federations left their positions. As this rate is significantly higher than in the Norwegian labour market in general and poses a further difficulty for a Norwegian sport system already facing many challenges, this article examines why this is the case. The topic is relevant because the working conditions of Norwegian sport leaders are under-explored given their important role in the way sporting federations shape society. As key representatives for the national federations under The Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NIF) umbrella, SGs and Presidents have responsibility for NIF’s 1.9 million members and are instrumental in managing a total worth of approximately 34 billion euros. Because SGs can be said to be more integrated than Presidents into the daily management of federations and into the human relationship responsibilities that comprise it, this article draws upon qualitative interviews with 16 Secretary Generals to present six reasons why working conditions challenges emerge. The article thus provides a contribution to sport leadership research and shows how the lack of continuity among SGs in national sport federations demonstrates the need for organisational change.

Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 14, 2023

HANS ERIK NÆSS is a Professor of Sport Management at the Department of Leadership and Organization at Kristiania University College, Norway. His main research interests include leadership, governance, politics, and organization of sport, topics on which Næss has published widely in journal articles and books. His latest book is The Neutrality Paradox in Sport. Governance, Politics and Human Rights after Ukraine (2022).

TOR ANDERS HANSSEN earned his Master of Public Administration from Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, and is the Secretary General of the Norwegian Golf Federation. He has been active in developing leadership competencies in Norwegian sport since the early 2000s and has contributed to several books published by the consultancy network named ‘Ledelse på norsk’ (Norwegian leadership).

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