Football, being the most popular sport in the world, is immensely celebrated in all aspects and likewise, the sport has seen some incredible leaders, who came along to significantly change the landscape of the game. These people brought something into the game that others had not seen, they foresaw opportunities and revolutionized the universe of 3.5 billion football fans.
Leadership is crucial, not only in football but in most aspects of life and often lessons on leadership can come from diverse spheres of life.
I, being an avid fan of the sport, think that it has much more to offer than the action on the pitch. Modern-day football is anything but just a game; it is a splendid showcase of financial power in sports, marketing, media, and last but not the least a display of incredible leadership on and off the pitch. When I try to think about leadership, I often tend to put myself in the dressing room of a football team – reflect and contemplate about the dynamics that are in play which make or break a team.
Moreover, one thing that never fails to amaze me is the leadership that is exercised by the managers/coaches day in day out and yet they remain in the shadows. I remember Brian Clough saying that “Good managers make good sides. There’s no such thing as a side making a manager”, the iconic manager who went on to achieve the impossible, and is yet as of today remembered for his leadership that drove the Leeds United team to glory.
However, it is important that the focus remains on the lesson and not the person. Therefore, here are some key lessons on leadership from football that we can incorporate into our lives and workspace.
The essence of leadership lies in discipline, says Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most successful managers of the game. According to the manager, who won 38 trophies during his reign at Manchester United, the key secret to establishing the right kind of attitude in the team is to ensure the proper practice of discipline and rules. Sports can bring different challenges and the same applies to one’s personal life and workplace and the practice of proper discipline offer order and harmony.
Soon after a double trophy season in 2015, the fortunes of Chelsea Football Club changed. In the next season, the champions finished 10th after one of the worst displays of defending the title that they had won so convincingly under manager, Jose Mourinho. According to experts and people at the club, the players were no longer playing as a team and that Jose had lost his place in the dressing room. The next manager at the helm, had an immense task in his hand and almost everyone discounted the Italian coach, Antonio Conte but to everyone’s surprise, the Italian turned things around for his team. When talking about his target for Chelsea, Antonio Conte said “The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.” His emphasis on building a team, which works together irrespective of any situation had worked as a wonder to establish the team at the very top. Therefore, proving that it is crucial that everyone’s effort in the team is recognized and their belief is aligned accordingly. An individual can only go so far but a team goes a long way and the right kind of leadership build teams that believe in themselves and the goal ahead.
The way we look at things eventually determines the outcome that is derived from the work. One can focus on the work but without the right kind of attitude, the task would be impossible to accomplish. After his retirement at the age of 72, Sir Alex Ferguson said “I’ve never played for a draw in my life.” which clearly indicates the mentality that this winning manager always embraced. Furthermore, he goes on to say that one’s attitude after a defeat is the determinant of the person’s character and can, in the long run, be the measure of his success.
The journey, however beautiful, is defined by its destination. The vision that one has for his future is vital to the future that entails. The universe can offer you miracles but only if you have the will to dream of it; these words might seem synonymous to Leicester City’s Premier League title triumph which saw the underdog club accomplish what no one even dreamt about. When talking about the club’s title-winning run, the then manager Claudio Ranieri said “It’s important not to look down or behind you. Like a climber, you need to look up. If you look down, you go, ‘Oh! My God, look where we are!” That is why it’s imperative that one should believe in their own cause and have a vision regardless of what the future might bring.
The world of football, in all its glory, is an exhibition of the spectacular in all things. While it proudly boasts the gifts of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, it also presents the fans with revolutionary and pragmatic ways of leadership through Sir Alex, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Zinedine Zidane, Antonio Conte and many others. For entertainment or maybe for the genius, football remains an enigma for 3.5 billion people across the globe but for everyone else it has lessons to be learned beyond it 5000 yards.