Leadership lessons: The Sir Alex Ferguson approach

A legendary figure in world football and probably all of sports management.

Sir Alex Ferguson lead the Manchester United football team for 26 years, winning a list of awards so long I couldn’t list them here. He’s considered one the greatest and most successful managers of all time.

I also have a soft spot for Sir Alex as he’s a fellow scot (technically I’m half scottish) from Glasgow, who is very much a by product of his working class roots, which we can see flows through his leadership style.

I finished his book titled “Leading” at the end of 2018 and it purely focused on how he lead a multitude of groups of individuals over his 26 year tenure. With valuable insights on human behaviour, experiences across multiple high-stress situations and his part in developing the global brand of Manchester United.

What I learnt most from this book were the ideas of presence, compassion, forward thinking and how to adapt to constant changing and high stakes environments.

For me, Sir Alex shared 3 essential components that every leader should have in their toolkit.

Watch, listen & read.

Great leaders watch, they take in their surroundings, the people and assess their environment. They are mindful of what’s in front of them, not what they think should be in front of them.

Real leaders listen. They take the time to listen to the problems of those around them and seek council from those who have been there before.

Any leader wanting to keep being great and helping those around them, must keep evolving their thinking and understanding of the world. Reading, whether a book, article or wisdom on a post it note is an essential behaviour that allows us to continually grow.

These are nothing fancy, just the small things that produce big returns which matter most.


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