Alex Ferguson’s leadership legacy



Alex Ferguson, the world’s most famous football manager, announced his retirement today.  He was the man behind Manchester United’s success and was known for his unwavering determination and steadfast focus on results.  But what can we learn about Alex Ferguson as a leader and would his leadership style work in the real world?  Here are Alex Ferguson’s top three leadership lessons.

 Inspire your team with passion and commitment.  Nothing motivates a team more than a leader’s own determination and exuberance.  Alex Ferguson inspired his team by getting them to believe in themselves, telling them stories and helping them to visualise victory.  He said:

“I remember going to see Andrea Bocelli, the opera singer. I had never been to a classical concert in my life. But I am watching this and thinking about the co-ordination and the teamwork, one starts and one stops, just fantastic.”

Don’t be afraid to deal with under-performers.  OK, we have to steer clear of employment tribunals but Ferguson put performance and results before everything.  He supported and defended his players for as long as they performed. But he managed talent effectively, having the courage to move players on when the time came.

“You can’t ever lose control — not when you are dealing with 30 top professionals who are all millionaires. And if anyone steps out of my control, that’s them dead.”

Give praise when it’s due.  Ferguson was a tough, uncompromising and sometimes aggressive boss.  But he knew how important it was to give praise.  And because he was so demanding, that praise was all the more effective when it came.

“For a player – and for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing “well done”. You don’t need to use superlatives.”

Alex Ferguson has done what many leaders cannot do  – made his exit early, leaving the crowd wanting more.

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3 Responses to “Alex Ferguson’s leadership legacy”

  1. It all sounds so simple but it is difficult to achieve – a timely reminder of what makes an effective leader.

    • jeanette says:

      Thanks for the comment Jane. Yes, simple but not at all easy. I wouldn’t advocate throwing hairdriers at members of staff though!

    • Thanks Jane. Yes, not at all easy in practice. I wouldn’t advocate throwing hairdriers at staff though!

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