Football managers as clinical leaders? surely not!

4 12 2008

The Leadership hub has some more words of wisdom on leadership from the Govan shipyard worker who played a wee bit of football and ultimately rose through the ranks to be regarded as one of the best 5 football managers ever!

Now, Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson CBE has many critics and I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a Man Utd fanboy. (You can find my team supporting most of the Scottish League above them.) There is a no denying that the man has had a magnificent effect on the team he took over  20 years ago. He cut his managerial teeth on such well known teams as East Stirlingshire and St Mirren before moving to Aberdeen and then eventually Manchester United.

His style is no nonsense and direct, he firmly believes that no individual is bigger than the club and he is renowned for being a strict disciplinarian. Very old fashioned. And yet, as blogged earlier, he has a style that engages players, even those who don’t make it in his team and he gets results seeking out talent and nurturing and keeping them. Ryan Giggs for instance joined the club aged 17 and eighteen years later is still making first team appearances. Something about the team and set-up at the place has retained him whilst others have moved on. Sir Alex’s style must be part of that.

The advice Ferguson gave at a recent visit to a school was

  • Gain respect, not fear
  • Delegate and observe
  • Analyse defeat in order to improve
  • Be decisive and stand your ground
  • Remember small things, like names
  • Take care of yourself
  • Make all staff feel part of the team

It’s not rocket science really, is it?

Yet the more I consider it, the more I wonder if football managers have something to teach us as clinical leaders.

Although near the pinnacle of his organisation the manager will still be at the shop floor on a regular basis. He must know and interact closely with many people on many different levels. He must delegate and trust the delegated results. He must integrate reports and reviews from many sources. He must motivate and change plans and tactics at a moment’s notice and must motivate even when things don’t go well. He has to deal with defeat and disappointment and even unrealistic expectations and complaint. Few managers achieve the success that others crave for the club yet they must still carry on to the next match and the next season. Hopefully.

So whether it is at East Stirlingshire or Manchester United I think football managers have something to teach us on clinical leadership. What do you think?

What can we learn from football managers?

26 11 2008

The most recent entry on the Leaders We Deserve blog makes an interesting comment on the leadership style of Sir Alex Ferguson and how a player rejected by the club David Bellion, still receives support and encouragement from Ferguson years after moving on. Another football manager Arsene Wenger is also in the news this week over his management of internal trouble at his club. He appointed a new club captain but is also quoted as saying, “However, I do not believe in just one man in the dressing-room who sorts out all of the problems…A successful team is a shared leadership inside the dressing room.”

It started me to consider how, interestingly, the Manager of a football team is also, when effective, a leader and a coach. Topically, there are various British clubs at the present time trying to deal with the problems raised by dividing the accepted roles into “Director of Football”, “First Team Coach” and “Manager.”

The complexities of a position in such major football clubs are clearly well beyond my understanding but it is evident to even the most bitter observer that effective managers have teams that work and change their work under the direction of an effective, hands on, active and reactive leader. The styles of these men vary hugely and the results cannot simply be viewed in trophy cabinets. Clearly success and money motivate professional footballers but there has to be much, much more to it than that as the highest paid players do not necessarily produce the best results. You only have to look at results like lowly Blyth Spartans beating Shrewsbury in the FA Cup to see that.

What can I learn from these men? They plan and they motivate. They observe and react. They offer success but offer and demand total loyalty. They receive respect and performance. How they achieve this is unclear but certainly their value as leaders is what makes them effective managers even accepting that they make mistakes. I’m not pretending clinical leadership is the same but there is plenty to work from.

Right, where does one buy a sheepskin coat?

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