I have always been fascinated by those possessing outstanding leadership quality and so I recently read Sir Alex Ferguson’s book ‘Leading’, (which is quite an admission from an avid Aston Villa fan). Some of my fellow supporters may consider this as tantamount to treachery, but let me explain.
Anyone having any knowledge of English footballing history cannot deny that were it not for Sir Alex, then Manchester United would never have dominated for most of his 26 year reign as Manager. We have never, and will never see the like again.
For that I have a grudging (because my team loyalties lie elsewhere) admiration for him as a manager and leader, and with it a respect for all he achieved.
Leadership – an ability to listen
Interestingly, it is clear that he attributes a lot of his success to the input of others, and an early sharing has shown this to be seemingly true. The major influence he attributes so far as being a meeting he had with his then Assistant Manager, Archie Knox. The meeting was called by his Assistant just a short while after he had joined Sir Alex at Manchester United, before all the glory years that were to follow.
Apparently the confident subordinate asked Sir Alex why he had employed him as his assistant? Probably thinking it was a fairly impertinent question, Ferguson asked what was meant by the question. Knox came back with that he was finding it increasingly difficult to impose himself when Sir Alex was doing his job for him, by micro managing everything and everyone on the training pitch.
He asked Sir Alex to stay on the side-lines and assess his own performance and that of the team from there, where he would see far more.
Unsurprisingly for most of us who have watched Sir Alex conduct himself over time, he said he would think about it. Archie surprised him by saying ‘No’, this is what needs to happen. Sir Alex, probably taken aback, amazingly agreed. Indeed, he now cites this as a major factor for his success.
Sir Alex says he realised he was still able to manage the detail, but by being on the side-lines he could view the wider game and how it was playing out. He saw the big picture, and from there could make micro adjustments to tweak and alter the course of games.
It is suggested that too many football managers talk, talk and talk. They rarely listen and their vision is blinkered by their pre-conceptions of what is right. This is what holds them back.
Leadership is multi-sensory
In just the first two chapters Sir Alex identified a number of key decisions he would never have made without listening and, critically, observing by standing back from the intricacies of the situation.
Two obvious but under-rated skills that mean so much in terms of good leadership.
I am sure you have heard the expression ‘We have two ears but just one mouth for a reason’. Well add to that we have two eyes as well, and I believe you will start to make better decisions and perform better as a leader.
Leadership is transferable
Oh, and just in case you are thinking that football has nothing to do with management or leadership in a business environment, then you might be interested to know that some major company executives have sought his advice. He has also featured as a case study at the Harvard Business School, and lectured there on the subject too.
I thoroughly recommend this book that you can get here http://amzn.to/2Dguqr0