Hr LibraryLeadership

Inside the Minds of Football’s Leaders

Source | | Mike Carson

The role of the head coach or “manager” of an elite professional football team is one of the most demanding and unforgiving leadership positions imaginable. Under constant scrutiny from supporters and detractors, they are praised and vilified from post rooms to board rooms – and most of us doing the talking seem to think we know their work better than they do.  Their words are analysed; they are looked to in crises; they are expected to deliver all the time; and average tenure in top leagues typically runs at around 18 months.  Success though confers on them lasting fame and an enormous sense of satisfaction.  And success requires from them a blend of human leadership where empathy meets with steel; the ability to analyse information, sense situations and make good decisions in slow and fast environments; and a self-awareness that allows them to role model precisely the behaviours and underpinning mindsets and philosophies that they hope for from their teams. 

The Euros – the great tournament of European footballing nations – comes around every four years.  This year it is one year later than planned due to COVID-19 restrictions; and for the first time is spread over multiple countries as co-hosts.  Now with all except the final match decided, the tournament has been widely acclaimed for both its quality and its character.  And over four fascinating weeks, many great stories of leadership have been unfolding.

It takes a particular kind of leadership to turn around a broken or damaged situation.  Roberto Mancini, manager of the Italian national team, is no stranger to demanding environments.  In 2009 he took over at Manchester City where the team was underperforming relative to the ambitions of their new owner, Sheikh Mansour.  It took him 3 years, but in 2012 Mancini’s City won the Premier League title, blowing away the club’s reputation for faded glory and serial under-achievement.  Mancini is a man of considerable ability and style, honed in Italy’s Serie A where he partnered with lifelong friend Gianluca Vialli at Sampdoria

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