Seven Leadership Secrets of Sir Alex Ferguson

Posted by M ws On Friday, October 25, 2013 0 comments
His autobiography is released today, so what lessons can we draw from this sporting icon?

When Manchester United boss Sir Alex – the most successful manager of a British soccer team in decades – announced his retirement back in May, it generated more than 1.4 million Twitter mentions within the first hour. This ranked as more significant than the death of Margaret Thatcher, if slightly less so than the announcement of the new Pope.

So here are Sir Alex's seven leadership lessons:

(1) Face Tough Reality And Sort Problems Out Head-On

The son of a Glasgow shipbuilder, Ferguson’s grit was forged during 17 relatively unspectacular years as a player in Scottish football. He reflected: “The adversity gave me a sense of determination that has shaped my life. I made up my mind that I would never give in.”

When he became manager of Manchester United in 1986, the tough reality was that the side hadn’t won the football league for 26 years – Ferguson was depressed by the players’ level of fitness and worried that they were drinking too much. However, as he would do many times in later years, Ferguson drew strength from adversity, managing to increase their discipline and improve results.

A key lesson for CEOs is not to let problems fester but to tackle them head-on. As Ferguson says:

“No one likes to get criticized. But in the dressing room, it’s necessary that you point out your players’ mistakes. I do it right after the game. I don’t wait until Monday, I do it, and it’s finished. I’m on to the next match.”

(2) Only Accept Winning

“I’ve never played for a draw in my life,” boasts Ferguson, and with 49 trophies, 13 Premier League titles and two European Cups to his name, it shows. He has inspired by his passion, convincing players that they can push their performance on through a brick wall.

Ferguson is also passionate about his politics, leading his friend and Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell to comment:

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