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Leadership: why directors should not imitate Mr Mourhino and Mr Ferguson




Jose Mourhino is the current manager at Manchester United Football Club and Alex Ferguson is a former manager of the same club. Both are famous. To some, that’s an embarrassing understatement.


But not everyone knows and loves football. I don’t love it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it or understand it.


A client recently sent me a link to an article about these two managers because he felt that I would be interested in the story from a leadership perspective. He was also clearly assuming that I had no interest in it from a football perspective.


To be fair, he has grounds for this assumption: he knows from our sharing of respective life stories that I was not sporty at school, was always last pick in playground footie and my nick name was “four eyes”. You get the picture.


But in my advancing old age I’m now getting tired of the assumption by friends, colleagues and clients that I know nothing whatsoever about football, rugby and cricket. The reverse is the case.


I’m a veritable walking-encyclopaedia of sporting trivia. Why? Because I get invited to major sporting events where, because I’m not deaf, I have to listen to endless punditry and I pick things up.


I’ve also spent a lifetime in pubs with blokes, quietly nursing my pint, whilst they willy waggle about their sporting knowledge as in: “ …no mate, you’re wrong..t’was the Forwards wot won it”. Occasionally I would get a sideways pitying glance but never asked for my views.


I would quietly think things but not say them: a) t’was hardly the Backs that won it for them b) why the necessity to collapse into Estuary English? The speaker was posh and had a First from Oxford and c) the Forwards, er, need the Backs.


I know lots about sport, actually: I could bore for England on “the slope” at Lords; I know, because I’ve been told a million times, exactly why England won the Triple Crown a million years ago – t’was because they were made to watch dots move on a laptop.


And, because I’m a closet Arsenal fan – I can’t come out because you have to be following a club ”man and boy” to have any street cred – I know and indeed agree that their forwards have an irritating tendency to “fanny around” the goalmouth.


But I will never be taken seriously on sporting matters. Indeed one mate was so outraged with envy when he heard that I was invited to a major rugby international he said that “I had no right to be there; that I know nothing about the game and that I simply do not understand that sport is tribal”. Yeah, tribal. I let it pass.