Soccology Sunday: Leadership inside and outside of Football

Leadership is about human connection. Leadership is about communication, rapport, being culturally fluent, setting the beliefs & values for the group, directing and strategising all behaviours towards the beliefs & values and being a role model.

Leadership in football is the same outside of football, it’s about how you make people feel.  If those that you lead feel safe, feel that you are consistent, fair, successful they will follow your lead. If your beliefs & values within the work environment resonate with those that you lead, they will follow your instructions beyond your expectations.

In Soccology, KPMG Senior Partner Tim Payne shared stories from his 20 years in Leadership, that involved leaders taking a personal interest in those they lead. The people felt like people and not commodities. Former Manchester United player Quinton Fortune shared his experiences under the leadership under Sir Alex Ferguson and former Chelsea player Alexis Nicolas and coach Michael Beale shared what it was like under Jose Mourinho. None of those in football spoke about football in regards to leadership, they spoke about how Ferguson and Mourinho made others feel. Something Michael Beale embodies in his approach and led to him becoming the Assistant Manager of Sao Paulo. Philippe Countinho, Lucas Leiva and Roberto Firmino spoke about how Michael made them feel, to Sao Paulo Manager Rogerio Ceni. Michael’s positive impact on the players made them feel valued and they appreciated the time he took to explain situations and support them.

For years football bred leaders that shouted when things didn’t go well because that’s what those before them did. In fact, I remember sitting in a changing room at half time, losing 2-0 and my manager swearing every other word. I thought to myself how does phrases like “f***ing pull your socks up” and “You f***ing need to work harder” help us to change this game in our favour? Everyone, in their eyes were working hard and doing their job. We were struggling and needed someone to direct us in a different way to which we went about the game in the first half. This is not to say that shouting and swearing doesn’t work for some but what is the overall message? For some people it works and for others it doesn’t. Personally I didn’t need motivation, I needed strategy, so when I heard those team talks I would switch off. I know from experience that this happened a lot with others and continues to happen.

How can you connect to those you lead?

Leadership tips:
1. Mindful Management
Steer aware from judgements and more towards curiosity. If a member of your team is struggling, being curious as to why and how you can both overcome the problem will increase the chances of having a positive outcome in the situation and the relationship as a whole. Know the uniqueness of your team, the “back in my day” or “my way or the highway” mentality will lead to a high turnover of staff and will negatively affect achieving your objectives. Seek to understand your team, acknowledge where they are lacking and apply a solution. Work in the now and not in the past.

2. The Message
What is your message? Once you connect with those that follow you they will become more receptive to your words. Your message should be consistent throughout your behaviour, all the work you direct your team to do and robust enough to deal with potential turbulence.

3. Modelling Excellence
Leading by example creates realistic goals, motivation and gives you credibility as the leader. There are many ways to lead, the more the better. If you lead in a limited amount of areas, those you lead will begin to question your capabilities. Being a good communicator, having up to date knowledge in particular field, representing what you preach (congruency) etc.