Leadership Lessons – Sir Alex Ferguson


Man Utd was recently hailed as the largest sports club on the planet. For that they can thank their long-serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson. What can we learn from ‘the hair dryer’?

1. Don’t tolerate a lack of focus or commitment.

” …Indeed, so committed is Fergie to staff development that when his hairdryer trick fails to inspire the desired results, he has allegedly been known to resort to the little-known ‘fling-a-boot-in-their-face’ technique. Always cited as a real winner at motivational training days…

But don’t be afraid to move on under-performing employees in the end. Blundering goalkeeper Massimo Taibi, signed for £4.5m in 1999, was offloaded after just four appearances following a calamitous 5-0 defeat to Chelsea.”

2. Stay on good terms with ex-employees.

“…Eleven of Fergie’s former charges have managed Premier League teams and while there’s short shrift for sentimentality in business or professional sport, it’s better to have employees leave you with a debt of gratitude than a yearning for revenge.

Consider it like the Mars/Unilever effect. These multi-nationals undertake most of the training for an entire industry. And if your organisation trained half of the people now in charge of your rivals, it definitely gives you an advantage.”

3. Defend your team in public.

“…When Cantona asked to have his contract terminated after his kung fu exhibition caused a public outcry (and resulted in an eight month ban), Ferguson’s support ultimately convinced the enigmatic Frenchman to stay. Cantona duly returned to win two more league titles in the following two seasons, lifting the second as club captain.

If your employees are bringing home the bacon and are integral to your team, don’t worry about the popular perception of them too much (N.B. this may not apply if they are actually kicking people).”

4. It’s even more important to defend your boss in public.

“…Yet Ferguson hasn’t a bad word to say about the Glazers, claiming they’ve ‘been great’ while citing the side’s continuing success since the takeover. Rumours he was planning to invest in a counter-takeover by a group of wealthy fans dubbed The Red Knights were swiftly dismissed as ‘absolute rubbish’. Whether Ferguson, a dyed-in-the-wool socialist, actually believes the Glazer’s debt-financed strategy is good for the club or not, he knows which side his bread is buttered on. Coming out against the owners, while crowd-pleasing, would probably lose him his job.

The lesson is: as long as your board keeps backing you, keep backing them.”

5. Mind games aren’t just for Uri Geller.

“…Though widely respected throughout the game, whenever Sir Alex angrily berates a referee for not adding enough injury time, or tells a reporter to ‘f**k off’, his critics quickly point out that such bullying behaviour hardly befits a knight of the realm. Yet one suspects that, to some extent, each outburst is calculated.

Harassment of officials may in fact be designed to encourage more favourable decisions in future, while the ‘mind games’ he indulges in with other managers, usually consisting of well-judged barbs and aspersions, have often proved effective (most potently on Kevin Keegan).”

Read the rest of the article ” Five leadership lessons from Sir Alex Ferguson”

While you can also read Leadership Lessons – Arsene Wenger on our website.

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  1. Leadership Lessons – Wenger | TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM - October 31, 2012

    […] can also read “ Leadership Lessons – Sir Alex Ferguson” on our […]

  2. Has Sir Alex hung up the hairdryer? | TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM - December 19, 2012

    […] the entire story at The Daily Mail here. Meanwhile, we have also covered Sir Alex’ 5 leadership lessons, sourced via Management Today. In addition, you can go over TKTG’s coverage of the […]

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