I have to confess, I’m not a great sports fan. I did however get caught up in the Euro 2020 excitement, and felt incredibly proud of the England team, even discussing it with friends! When I said I couldn’t believe I was actually talking about football, one replied “You are discussing football like a management consultant!”, as I was praising Gareth Southgate’s leadership skills.
It really struck me how good a manager he was and how other leaders could learn from him. Here are five ways in which I think he shines; skills which any manager can use:
Southgate communicates openly and respectfully with everyone. On first becoming Manager, he spoke to each member of staff to find out what they needed to do their best in their job. He encourages players to speak to him about anything; building rapport, trust and respect. He makes decisions and informs all involved about his thinking, so there’s no doubt. Involved in decision-making, they feel valued, respected and listened to. “If he has ever got a thought, he always speaks to players about their opinion and what they think of it,” said Declan Rice. When players aren’t played, they know why. When they are taken off, they know why, and respect his decisions.
2. Hiring well:
He has a strong support team, good at their jobs, who fit well together; so important when recruiting. It’s easy to teach skills but harder to change personality/attitude. Hiring the right fit, then trusting them to do the job to the best of their ability is key.
3. Keeping calm:
Known for being calm, he’s created an environment which encourages players to be calmer, feel comfortable expressing themselves, and far more positive in their whole approach. Encouraged to socialise/connect with each other away from games, the bond is stronger between players.
Arrogance gets leaders nowhere. Southgate shows humility; encouraging openness, trust, recognition, admitting when he’s wrong, learning from mistakes, encouraging others to shine. He’s brave and bold, standing by controversial decisions in staff and player selections, and in matches. “He knows his strengths and recognises the area he can improve on and also tries to find people who work around him to try and fill those slots” Steve Holland, England coach.
5. Kindness and empathy
Irrespective of his career’s heady heights, he’s kind and humble. From writing personal messages to every staff member after the 2018 World Cup, to comforting and reassuring players who haven’t performed to plan. Having been there himself, he can relate to the pain. “That’s based on his style of support, of empathy, of kindness and understanding. He’s highly competitive and can be quite ruthless, but that doesn’t stop you being decent at the same time; he’s giving a modern lesson in decency at the moment.” Sports Psychologist Michael Caulfield.
Football aside, there’s a lot regular managers can learn from Southgate’s management style. These are just a few areas, have a think about whether you have any others to add.