I look to football managers for lessons in management 

Football managers like Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho and from a previous generation Alex  Ferguson and Brian Clough are stand out managers with impressive track records. They are extreme characters, neither heroes nor villains although to the partisan they are both. Their high profile and willingness speak their mind, their tendency to court controversy,  the level of scrutiny their teams performance are subjected to, and the simplicity with which their effectiveness is assessed show us management in the raw. 

Managing at a football club is totally different to being a senior manager in a Local Authority, or is it? Both are challenged to motivate talented individuals. Both have a vision and a plan for the future whilst being required to deliver improved performance in the short term. In both cases recruitment  and retention will reflect and determine progress. The amount of money available and the priorities for spending it are familiar discussions in both the boardroom and cabinet. Both seek to manage their relationship with the media, build links with the local community and aim to keep the public on side despite some unpopular decisions and poor performances. 

What is interesting is how they respond to these challenges. Their management styles are/were very different reflecting both their personalities and the times. Brian Clough was notoriously autocratic, “ if we have a difference of option we discuss it and then agree I was right”. Alex Ferguson was more your old school head master, he looked after “his boys “ and famously trusted in youth. Jose Mourinho was the young upstart he did not come into management the traditional way and delighted in challenging the status quote. His philosophy was the end justified the means the only thing  that counts is success/ trophies. Jurgen Klopp is the latest to achieve success with the emphasis on culture and a convivial personality which doesn’t seek to hid his passion for the job. 

What I have observed is that past success is no guarantee of future success, all managers however successful have their weaknesses, a sense of humour, insight into how your behaviour effects others and self belief are all useful characteristics for a manager. Finally some times  events conspire against even the best but not as often as they would have you believe. 

Of course management insights can be taken from any activity that involves managing people and budgets but to me these people seem more real and more relevant than studying the Fortune Top One Hundred companies and a lot more fun. 

Blair McPherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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