Alex Ferguson – lesson in leadership

I have never really been a fan of Alex Ferguson but must admit to having a begrudging admiration for him and his achievements.  I have never liked the way he seemed to lose his temper at a whim and the way he used this as a tool in his armoury or the mind games he would play especially with the fourth officials or linesmen as I think they used to be called back in the day. 

Look, it is easy to be a supporter of a top class club and there are not many clubs as top as Manchester United but I have no doubt that what he has achieved over nearly three decades has ever been easy.  (As an aside, following a football club for me is a question of birth or tribalism rather than choice which does not sit well with my disdain for blind patriotism but that is another story.  I will stick with Newcastle united thank you.)

So when the world was presented with wall to wall coverage of his last game at Old Trafford on Sunday I felt a little under siege by the whole occasion but when he got up to give his speech at the end of the match I stopped and listened and was held captivated.  Perhaps for once I had seen the true enigma that he was (and still is).

What struck me was insistence that this was not his achievement and that instead it was everyone’s success.  The directors, the management, the grounds staff, the players and of course the supporters all had had a role in delivering the outstanding results that they had enjoyed.  Like a true leader he had demonstrated a self-effacing and inclusive approach.  But what really struck a chord with me was when he thanked the fans for their support said that they all had a new job now and that was to support and get behind the new manager.

I think everyone would agree that management is there to support and develop the employees in their charge and to work to deliver the objectives of the organisation while satisfying the needs of its customers but the concept that the employees also have a responsibility to look after and develop the management is inspirational and a work of pure genius.

Sport is a specialist industry and football is a niche within it and there is no guarantee that a successful manager in one area can transfer their skills to another but you can only prove yourself in the circles in which you move.  He has proved himself to be beyond doubt one of the greatest football managers that has ever been and his swan song finally made me realise why.  I wish him a long and happy retirement.

Did I tell you that I’ve always liked Alex Ferguson?

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