Follow the Leader (The ‘Sir Alex’ Method)

The football season is well underway and it won’t be long before some teams are failing to match the dreams of their fans and owners. As is the tradition at these times when your  team is doing badly, they have had some poor results and your expectations of Premier League success are fading fast, it’s the manager’s head that is called for. Is changing the leader the answer or is it a need to do something differently.  How many of these teams actually recover from a manager merry go round? 

Academic evidence (Bridgewater 2010) shows that a short term honeymoon improvement over the first 12 games of a new manager’s tenure is replaced by a level of performance below that of before the change.  The highest performing organisations are those that develop a winning culture, where everyone understands their long term vision, beliefs and values.

More interestingly, how many leaders are able to change their approach, mindset and behaviours to bring about a better performance?

I was particularly struck by the reaction of Sir Alex Ferguson after Manchester United were so comprehensively beaten by Barcelona in the Champions League final 2011.  Just looking at his demeanour suggested that he recognised that even at their very best his team wouldn’t have won.  The standard of competition had been raised and a new approach was required in order to become world-beaters again.  There was no call for the leader to be changed, after all this was an outstanding team.  It was the leader that recognised the need to change in order to compete with the best in the business. 

It’s a brave person who changes a successful team; there is so much to lose, so little to gain.  We often see successful businesses stagnate, afraid to do anything different.  We find good managers reluctant to adopt different practices because they might give poorer results.  What brilliant leaders like Sir Alex have is a clear vision of what they want to achieve and they are not afraid to challenge their own ways of doing things. 

Their vision does not change, everyone understands the goals, they share the values of the organisation, and they are not afraid to challenge their approach in order to get a better result.  If our market, the economic environment, our competitors, or even our team changes then sticking remorselessly to the way we know may well leave us heading for relegation or for the crowd baying for our heads. Great leaders are always prepared to change their rules.

Are you able to follow Sir Alex’s example?
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