Model Sports Leadership

An article on management in the FT last week recalled the comment of Howard Wilkinson (former manager of Leeds United) on management:\r\n\r\n“No offence to captains of industry, but even a FTSE100 chairman can postpone a board meeting. A football manager can’t postpone a football match and every match is a shareholder meeting, [sometimes] in front of 80,000 people”.\r\n\r\nSounds good, but Andrew Hill, the FT correspondent on management, made a compelling counter argument. Yes, football managers rarely have second chances and are often granted a short tenure, but he points out that  “there is a purity and focus to the football manager’s role that is rarely found in business”.\r\n\r\nSo while it’s perfectly reasonable for Harvard Business School to carry out a study on Alex Ferguson (who by the way has access to the boardroom that is atypical in football), we should not be seduced into thinking that the axioms of sports leadership can be readily transferred to other organisations, where leaders often have a far more nuanced task in front of them involving more complex data and more significant unknowns.\r\n\r\nSo before adopting someone else’s leadership idea the shrewd leader should think deeply about this:\r\n

‘What stream feeds the well you are drawing from?’

\r\nThat said … ‘Fergusons Formula’ is still worth a read on the Harvard Business Review site here.