In a couple of recent blog posts, we’ve looked at leadership advice from one of the greatest football mangers of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, as outlined in his book, Leading. There’s a lot that business executives can learn about good leadership from the formation and management of a winning football team, and Sir Ferguson’s insights apply equally to all business types.
For the third and final blog, we’ve got yet more insights on critical values that a good business leader should either already have, or work hard to develop:
1) Less management, more leadership
A manager intimidates, holding the threat of punitive action over their team to keep them in line. It’s an old and ineffective way of doing things. The manager exercises control and authority, but also alienates people in the process. A leader doesn’t allow people to walk over them, but at the same time exhibits confidence, both in themselves and their team. A leader is inspiring to work with for the energy they provide and the sense that they can make the impossible possible. A leader is also able to, and willing to trust their team to do their work well and has the confidence to delegate responsibility. A manager would never have the confidence to cede control, while a leader is able to get better results from the entire organisation because they don’t put all the responsibility on their own shoulders.
2) Be open to innovation
A poor business leader is one that refuses to accept innovation and ends up being steamrolled by it. A great business leader is one that is always on the lookout for new ideas and ways of doing things. Look at how slow the taxi industry was to adapt to Uber, or ow Blackberry and Nokia alike were unable to adapt their businesses when new innovations from Apple and Google came to market.
A good leader will always back their curiosity in innovation and new ways to do things with an insistence on evidence and common sense. There’s no benefit on jumping onto an idea that soon fails. But they will always be out there looking for the most cutting-edge techniques to improve their businesses’ performance – Sir Ferguson, for example, got his players to train in vests with GPS’ installed so that they could collect the data for post-training analysis.
3) Allow others to inspire you
A good business leader will always have peers that they aspire to, and those that they feel a rivalry with. Both are healthy. A rivalry can inspire a business leader to greater levels of excellence themselves; it can be the motivating factor that encourages them to work harder and continue to work hard once they’re on top.A leader needs to know how to moderate their sense of rivalry so that it doesn’t become destructive, but having that rivalry is important to generate passion.
A leader will also have other leaders that inspire them, but it’s important for that respect to come with a healthy dose of scepticism. People made bad decisions sometimes, so it’s important that a good leader understand that, and properly analyse every decision that their heroes make.
4) Be good at moving jobs
The final piece of advice that Sir Ferguson has for executives that want to become better leaders is to become good at moving businesses. It’s rare for a person to remain at a single company their entire working lives now.
Leaders moving into a new job generally find themselves under a lot of pressure to make changes quickly. They’re generally hired by a board (or other executives) under the expectation that they’ll find a new path forward for the business, and this means change. But it’s a poor leader that doesn’t take the time they need to get fully acquainted with the business and its subtleties before making those changes. The biggest mistake, according to Sir Ferguson, is to come into a business and make a hasty decision that accidently upends everything the business previously did.
Only once you’ve been able to develop a comprehensive plan forwards for the business should you start to enact change, and even then, make sure your team is aware of the plan and reassured of the vision for the company moving forwards.
It’s also important to leave existing roles well. Ensuring a smooth transition by finding someone who can help facilitate the process within the organisation that you’re departing is of critical importance, in keeping the future of your previous co-worked and subordinates secure. Where possible, promote from within to find someone who can continue to align with the vision you set in place until they can start to establish their own voice and position.
Where possible, step back and hand the reigns over to your successor before you leave the job, so you can continue to be available if they need your help in the immediate future.
All the above really boil down to one thing; use your position of leadership to build a strong, positive identity for yourself, being open to new ideas, and giving those on your team the opportunity to shine. Sir Ferguson’s leadership style is eminently modern and creative, and with the speed in which organisations in all sectors move now, that kind of leader is an invaluable asset to their businesses.