This week I was asked to describe my leadership style. It’s affiliative with the ability to change for different situations. I often learn from football managers, observing many differences since the era when Brian Clough and others were noted for their motivational skills and coercive style. They were all former players who enjoyed complete control over their teams. It started to change when Arrigo Sacchi, who never played professionally, won the European Cup twice and reached the World Cup Final. His leadership was characterised by a willingness to treat the players as equals.
Six of the Premier League’s twenty clubs now have a head coach instead of a manager. The terminology is important. A manager is in charge, a coach is a guide. One is above the team and one is part of it. One gives orders. One facilitates. England’s relative success in the recent World Cup came with an affiliative head coach, whose only achievement as a manager was getting Middlesbrough relegated. As with Sacchi, the emphasis was on teamwork and collective responsibility.
In 1989, the year of Saachi’s first European Cup, there had never been a foreign manager in the English top division. Now there are only six British managers there, none of whom are known as head coach. One was managing in England in 1989 and last year, achieved a record eighth promotion. Neil Warnock describes himself as old-school and rates Brian Clough as one of his idols. It will be fascinating to see how he fares in a league that now displays a diverse range of leadership styles.