“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
Modern day managers and coaches such as Pep, Klopp and Simeone are not just dedicated professors of the game, but they are modernising the way players and coaches interact on a daily basis. Gone are the days of the dictatorship in a football club; modern football is now the rise of the leader, the friend and the mentor.
So how can we as coaches on the front line become the modern leaders we aspire to be and watch every night on television and help our players become extraordinary?
The starting point for any coach is to ask yourself the following questions:-
· What can I do more of?
· Am I comfortable with accountability?
· Do I have a vision??
So what is meant by 'can I do more?' From the perspective of the role of a coach, it is not 'can I put on better sessions?' or 'can I get all of the best players at my club?', but it is about evaluating your style and critiquing the environment you have at your club. It’s the language that you use, the standards you hold yourself by and those you want your players to embrace. It’s about what more can you offer a player? Take Raheem Sterling for example, this summer he was portrayed as the worst player in an England shirt after a torrid first season at Man City, but fast forward a couple of months a new coach and the difference is notable. Has Pep in a short space of time influenced his technical ability drastically? Has he altered the team’s tactics to get the best out of him? The answer would be no. All Pep has done is reassured the already talented Sterling of his ability and installed a level of confidence you saw in his Liverpool days.
This awareness to understand your players as humans is the first step to evolving from just a manger or coach to a leader who gets the best out of their players, who in turn would run to the ends of the earth and back for the common cause. I feel that we as coaches have a responsibility to produce better people, who in turn will become better players, not just produce better sessions to look good.
Accountability: This topic has been hotly contested in the past two weeks when Jose Mourinho on two separate occasions directly criticised his players in the media, most notably Luke Shaw. Some will say that this is acceptable and others will say that Jose was out of order. I am sure you have your own opinion.
In regards to a manager and coaches, this is one of the most difficult areas of them all, admitting we have made a mistake or taking the fall for a bad session, result or un-kept promise. But relax, you're only human!
Your ability to accept accountability and be comfortable in its presence is another step to being a leader that people and players want to follow. In the world of football accountability is a two way thing. As a coach it is being a solutionist, it is getting rid of the acceptance of swamp talk and the culture of passing the buck when a bad decision or action is made. It's having the honesty and integrity to say ‘ I made a mistake’ or ‘That didn’t work’. This ability to accept that even you as the manager, the leader, makes mistakes and is willing to hold your hands up will encourage your players to embrace accountability and follow your actions. This is the catalyst where if you create the environment where others follow your lead to accept that mistakes happen or that they have been below the required standard without offering an excuse you now have a team of players who will come to a party offering solutions and honesty over excuses.
In the world of football the term ‘What can we do?’ is a great way to involve others in to the process of solving problems or issues. The use of ‘we’ indicates to everyone that you are in this together; the role of a leader is to influence people as opposed to telling them what you want them to do.
Now ask yourself: was Jose out of order or do his players share this sense of accountability towards their performances and contribution to the teams objectives?
Your vision: This is your final piece to the puzzle. All great leaders in football have a philosophy on what they want their teams to be like, from tiki taka to heavy metal, everyone has one. However just because you have one, it doesn’t mean players will buy in to it - just ask LVG.
Leaders in football such as Wenger, Cruyff, Ferguson, Guardiola and Rinus Michels not only had a philosophy but a vision on how their philosophy came to life, and more importantly, they sold it to their players.
From my point of view the most successful managers who I would call leaders have a vision that is flexible but stays true to their values, behaviours and identity. To transform your philosophy in to a vision that your players buy in to and drive forwards for you, there is a 6 step process:-
· Recognise-Be self-aware, know what you want
· Create rapport with your players- Never get personal
· Understand and respect others perspectives
· Be interest focused- Know why your players play and use it to sell your vision to them
· Show how your vision can generate creative option
· Think about how your belief impacts on others
These 6 steps overnight won’t turn you in to a leader, it will take practice and a lot of trial and error, but remember ‘The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves’
About the author: Gareth is a highly respected UEFA Qualified football coach which an abundance of experience in professional women's and college football. Currently mentoring the coaches of the future he has some fantastic ideas on development. To contact Gaz follow @GazLee3 on Twitter.