Leadership Lessons That can be learnt from Legendary Man Utd Manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Leadership Lessons

You might have comes across many management experts giving you several tips on how to handle projects or giving you theoretical management lessons. But, management as a broader concept involves people management and not just work management.

Often, managers or experts ask you to focus on the tasks like securing additional finance (click here to find out more), planning the right marketing strategy, pitching new clients and such others but the truth is you need to consider people and not just the various tasks that need to be completed.

Of all the experts out in the world, there is one person who has set an impeccable benchmark as a management persona. In the field of football managers Sir Alex Ferguson is considered by many as the ultimate pinnacle due to his splendid and consistent track record of dealing with diverse personalities in his 26 year tenure as the manager of Manchester United,while still achieving unprecedented levels of success.

Discussed below are some fundamental lessons that can be learnt through his near flawless journey.

Lesson#1-Defend your team in public

If your employees show the required dedication and ability towards their work and your company they should be rewarded with something in return. By showing loyalty to your team and by appreciating their efforts you make them feel that you always have their back.

Do you remember the moment when Ferguson stood by Rio Ferdinand?

The former England international was banned for eight months for missing a drug test but Ferguson stood by him.

In fact, when Eric Cantona asked Sir Alex to terminate his contract based on the Kung fu kick controversy against a fan in a match versus Crystal Palace, Ferguson not only convinced Cantona to stick around, but also offered him a new contract.

After, the eight month ban, Cantona returned triumphantly and repaid Ferguson’s trust by inspiring the club to 2 league titles, the last of which was achieved with Cantona as captain..

As a leader, you must keep in mind that if your employees bring you laurels irrespective of the chaos going on in their lives you must appreciate their efforts (unless they are involved in highly unacceptable behaviour).

Lesson#2- Be on good terms with former employees

It is better that your employees leave you with a debt of gratitude rather than a thirst for revenge. Irrespective of incidents in the past, both ex-players -Taibi and Beckham are on cordial talking terms with Ferguson.

This quality works as an asset when they evolve into managers and they often successfully shoulder this responsibility. As an entrepreneur, you tend to believe that sentiments have negligible role to play in business but it is always beneficial to share a personal relationship with your employees as well.

Eleven of Ferguson’s former charges have managed Premier League teams, which is a testament to his ability to create leaders.

If your firm has trained almost half of the people currently working for your rivals then the ball is definitely in your court.

Lesson#3- Do not accept lack of commitment/focus

You may expect your employees to deliver quality performance based on their calibre. But, when they fail to do so, you might have to unleash your own version of the famed Sir Alex Ferguson ‘hairdryer’.

This literally refers to screaming in the recipient’s face from such close quarters and with immense ferocity that it actually leaves their hair quite damp. Of course, you can’t do this literally without having to deal with harassment claims, but it is important to find a way to be stern with your employees when the situation requires it.

Another trick to lead your employees towards the right direction is by sometimes leaving them in doubt about what is actually expected from them. This acts as a productivity booster since it encourages them to perform better.

Lesson#4- Playing effectual mind games

Over the course of Sir Alex’s managerial career there have been many instances where he has angrily spoken to a referee for not adding sufficient injury time or abused a reporter/critic for perceived slights against his players or club.

The intensity of his anger would be high enough to get people to back-off people and tag him as a ‘bully’. But if you think rationally and track his behaviour then you will notice that it is a calculated outburst and not a sudden explosion.

Harassment of officials may encourage favourable decisions in the future. But, the mind games that he plots on other managers have proven to be effective in the past.  He used a combination of aspersions and barbs to do so and the best instance is the famous ‘I will love it’ meltdown rant from rival manager Kevin Keegan in 1996.

Similarly when he criticises or abuses reporters do they stop interviewing him?

Not really, because even the reporters know the fact that they need him and not the other way round.

Reporters know that Sir Alex Ferguson is indispensable and all they can do is not ask something which irks him.

Lesson#5-Defend your boss in public

Do you remember the -‘Love United, Hate Glazer’ campaign launched by Man Utd fans in 2005?

The Glazer family is considered to be the most controversial custodians of the club. The fans were upset that funds were being drained from the club’s revenue to service loans that the owners had taken out to buy the club in the first place.

Irrespective of this chaos, Ferguson smartly chose not to bad word the Glazers and continuously referred to the success achieved by the club since the takeover. Alex Ferguson was wise enough to understand which side his bread is buttered on and that going against the owners would have had its own repercussions.

For starters, he would lose his job and second pleasing the crowd would do no good to an unemployed man.

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