Book Talk - Learning management lessons from soccer's bosses

By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - New Manchester United manager David Moyes was so keen to study top soccer teams that he drove himself around France in a hire car during the 1998 World Cup, sleeping in the vehicle when cash was tight.

Such determination helped Moyes to establish himself as one of the top managers in the English Premier League. He took charge of champions United in June, facing the daunting challenge of replacing Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in the history of English soccer.

Moyes and his fellow Scot Ferguson give insights into their methods and motivation in a new book that combines sporting anecdote with practical tips for business leaders.

Author Mike Carson, a business consultant and Manchester City fan, interviewed the team bosses whose management skills, ability to withstand stress and tactical acumen are tested before a global audience of hundreds of millions every weekend.

Carson sets out their different approaches in "The Manager: Inside the Minds of Football's Leaders". The book is based on interviews with around 30 of the men who have made it to the top of a handsomely rewarded yet insecure and lonely profession.

Ferguson, who retired in May after more than a quarter of a century at United, fittingly gives his views in a chapter on "Creating Sustained Success".

Portugal's charismatic Jose Mourinho, now back in the English Premier League at Chelsea after managing Spanish giants Real Madrid, tackles the issue of "Handling Outrageous Talent".

Mourinho, the self-styled "Special One", shows a more humble side to his character. He recounts that he is happy to fly in economy class with his backroom staff, if necessary, allowing his players first refusal on the business-class seats.

At a book launch in London attended by Mourinho and other Premier League managers, Carson spoke fondly of how he got hooked on soccer as a 10-year-old watching Manchester City beat Derby County 4-2 at the club's old Maine Road stadium in 1976.

Carson wrote the book with the support of the League Managers Association (LMA), a group representing team bosses past and present at the 92 clubs in English professional soccer.

Reuters spoke to Carson, a Briton who worked for McKinsey for five years and now co-owns his own consultancy business about the book.

Q: How did the project come about?

A: I met with the League Managers Association to discuss leadership in football because that is my work as a consultant and I felt we had something to offer to the world of football. They'd been looking to publish collectively the thoughts of the managers for some time on leadership and leadership skills. It was essentially a meeting of minds.

Q: Is the book aimed at soccer fans or business managers?

A: It's pitched at both. It is not an expose, it is not looking to uncover deep, dark secrets of managers. It's looking to give managers an opportunity to express their deep philosophy and practice of leadership.

It's fascinating to football fans because actually what is it that these great managers are thinking about when they are leading their teams? It's interesting for leaders in all walks of life because I firmly believe that football leadership is a great analogy for the more general kind. We can picture the challenges of football so we can learn from their expertise.

Q: What was the attitude of the managers you met. Were they happy to open up about their work?

A: They were very happy, I think for two reasons.

The LMA had arranged and facilitated the interviews and accredited me as their author so the managers started from a position of trust. They knew I wasn't coming in to try to grab newspaper-selling headlines, I wasn't going to distort what they said.

Reason two, is so rarely do the managers get an opportunity truly to express their philosophies on a reasonable platform. We tend to hear the three-minute, after-match, interview and it's mainly about "was it a penalty or should he have been sent off?". This was deeper and they were very excited to have that chance to discuss and express some of their philosophies.

Q: What form did the meetings take?

A: It was structured around private one-on-ones. I almost invariably met managers at their clubs, which was great, but it wasn't about at this stage going and seeing them in action with their teams. It was about their philosophy. So I didn't gather, if you like, any live feedback. It would be fascinating to ask Jose Mourinho's team how they perceive him and his leadership but that wasn't where we were going with this book.

Q: What are the key qualities that managers display?

A: One thing I noticed that they all had was empathy and steel at high levels. So they all had both, and then all would typically have one of them dialled up to world class, so they'd be very strong in one and then really exceptional in the other.

My example in the book would be that (Real Madrid manager) Carlo Ancelotti would be very strong on steel and exceptional on empathy and Sir Alex Ferguson would be exceptional at steel and very strong on empathy.

Another would be retaining perspective. These guys are good at perspective, they are good at taking time out to reflect, they are good at being able to see themselves in the heat of the moment and course-correct even though it will boil over for them, like it boils over for all of us. They are not supermen. I loved Carlo Ancelotti's quote when he said "football is the most important of all the small things in life".

Pretty much all of them have to be able to handle very, very big personalities, it almost goes without saying. What do you do when you have one, two or more huge personalities on your team?

Finally, they are very good typically at stakeholder management, juggling the requirements of the chairman or owner, the fans, the press, the media, obviously the players themselves, and agents.

Q: Do they have any weaknesses or blind spots in common?

A: I don't think there is anything collective. Because football is so high pressure, so high intensity, certainly in the matches, there is almost not a manager alive who wouldn't benefit from working on "how do I keep calm in the moment" because that's just really tough.

That's just human and frankly I have almost not met a business leader who would not benefit from that.

(Editing by Michael Roddy and Alison Williams)

--

Did you know that you can get stories like this on the Yahoo mail app?
Download it here.

Latest News

  • 'Jannat' director waiting to return from quake-hit Nepal

    New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) Bollywood director Kunal Deshmukh, who was in Kathmandu when the devastating earthquake hit the Himalayan nation, is still stuck there and waiting at the airport to return to Mumbai. In a text message to IANS, Deshmukh's friend and former Balaji Telefilms CEO Tanuj Garg said: "He (Deshmukh) is stuck at the Kathmandu airport right now and figuring a way of returning. On Sunday, actor Emraan Hashmi also updated the location of the director and shared some images sent …

  • Iran bans magazine for encouraging cohabitation over wedlock - report

    Iran's hardline judiciary has banned a magazine for encouraging cohabitation, known as "white marriage" in the Islamic Republic where sex outside wedlock is a crime, the Shargh newspaper reported on Monday. Under Iran's sharia-based laws, imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution, extramarital sex is punishable by flogging. Last year, the monthly Zanan-e Emrouz (Today's Women) published a special issue discussing various aspects of the "white marriage" and the reasons behind what it said was …

  • Anderson offers to pay for faux tuskers for Thissur Pooram

    Thrissur, April 27 (IANS) Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson has extended her support to pay for 30 life-sized bamboo and papier-mache elephants to replace live pachiderms at this year's Thrissur Pooram festival - billed as the 'mother of all festivals' in Kerala. Anderson penned a letter to Kerala's chief minister, making her offer, after the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) advised Kerala officials to leave live elephants out of the upcoming Thrissur Pooram parade because they are not …

  • Had the best time shooting with Ram Kapoor: Sunny Leone

    Mumbai, April 27 (IANS) Actress Sunny Leone, who for the first time is working with actor Ram Kapoor in the forthcoming comedy caper "Kuch Kuch Locha Hai", says she had the best of times shooting for the film because of him. For her, "Ram is a true comedian". Ram is very funny. "He would make everybody laugh and I had the best time with Ram. …

  • Tendulkar 'annoyed' by news on daughter joining films

    New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) Legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who is making his film debut in a docu-feature on his life, is upset by speculation that his daughter Sara is joining showbiz. "My daughter Sara is enjoying her academic pursuits. Annoyed at all the baseless speculation about her joining films," Tendulkar posted on Twitter on Monday. Rumours were rife that Sara, 17, would be making her Bollywood debut opposite Shahid Kapoor in an upcoming movie. …

  • Suriya's next with 'Sathuranga Vettai' director

    Chennai, April 27 (IANS) Actor Suriya, who is busy shooting for Tamil action-thriller "24", will next team up with "Sathuranga Vettai" director Vinoth for a yet-untitled project in the language. I'm not at the liberty to talk about the film, but I can assure you that it will be different from my first film," Vinoth told IANS. He also said the film won't be a sequel to "Sathuranga Vettai", a con-drama that was inspired by some real events. The film will be produced by Thirrupathi Brothers, …

  • Nagarjuna asks 'Dohchay' director for a script for himself

    Chennai, April 27 (IANS) Actor-producer Akkineni Nagarjuna is so impressed with Telugu film "Dohchay" that he has asked its director Sudheer Varma to pen a script for him. "He (Nagarjuna) really liked the film, especially how I managed to keep the last 20 minutes very entertaining. It also features Kriti Sanon, Posani Krishna Murali and Brahmanandam. Varma also received a call from actor Ravi Teja, who lauded his film too. …

  • Planning to take kids on summer vacation: Aishwarya Dhanush

    Chennai, April 27 (IANS) Aishwarya Dhanush, who has been busy writing and working on her forthcoming Tamil film "Vai Raja Vai" for the last two years, says she plans to take her children on a long vacation soon. I've promised to take them on a summer vacation. I'm just waiting for 'Vai Raja Vai' to release," the daughter of super star Rajinikanth told IANS. "Vai Raja Vai" is the second directorial of Aishwarya, who is married to actor Dhanush. …

Loading...