Gareth Southgate: a brief lesson in leadership

Firstly, let me say that I do not follow football.

In the last few weeks here in the UK (particularly in England), you would have had to be living down a very deep, dark, insulated hole not to hear, in particular, about the progress of the England football team, and their manager Gareth Southgate, through the Euro 2020 football tournament.

Now, when I say I do not follow football I mean I really don’t. Not at all! I know you have to get the ball in the net, but that really is about it!

Despite being an ardent football non-follower, and thanks to the seemingly endless media coverage, I have noticed and found myself regularly ‘nodding in approval of’ Mr Southgate’s leadership.

The reasons?

Well, let’s begin by going back to the fundamentals of leadership:

  • Taking responsibility,
  • Making and communicating clear decisions,
  • Agreeing actions

When was the last time you observed someone in a leadership position genuinely and consistently doing all of those? That’s got you thinking, hasn’t it?

Southgate certainly seems to.

Further, football ‘pundits’ who apparently know about these things say he gets the very best out of his team – more than would have been expected.

Again, another quality of a good leader is how they build a team that performs better together than the sum of the individual skillsets and experiences within it.

That is not easy to do, and one which a majority of leaders simply do not get right. It’s all very well building a team chock-full of talented, skilled, qualified, and experienced people, but that is no guarantee of how they will perform when you ask them to work together. Yet I see so many leaders just ‘leave them to it’, expecting the team to somehow function brilliantly without the regular leadership (responsibility, decisions, actions), direction, and guidance that is essential in them achieving the expected standards of performance. A team thrives on relationships – up, down, and sideways – with their colleagues in the team.

Also, remember that leadership is not about getting it right all the time. When it goes wrong, which it will from time to time, you take responsibility and learn from it. That’s part of being a leader. Your team needs to see you accept this responsibility.

There are two other keys for a leader to get their team to perform – building and clearly showing rock-solid trust and confidence in their team.

These two (trust and confidence) are so fundamental to the success of any team that they almost always have (or rather their lack of has) a significant contribution to under performance.

Think about it. When someone clearly has trust and confidence in you and what you are doing (whatever that may be), you try harder to succeed in your task don’t you? Even if you don’t realise you do. Trust and confidence provide an emotionally intelligent, intuitive connection with you as a person, and the relationships that are built from it will enhance performance.

Does Gareth Southgate clearly display trust and confidence in his England squad? I think he does, and maybe this is just one of the fundamental reasons he has succeeded more with the national team than any other manager in the last 50+ years?

So, there you have it – a brief lesson in leadership from the England Manager:

  • Responsibility
  • Decision-making
  • Actions
  • Trust
  • Confidence

If you do these consistently, you and your team will do well. If you can do all of these with calmness, clarity, and an ability to stick to the ‘right’ message, no matter what obstacles others may try to put in your and your team’s way, you and your team will do even better.

To find out more of how my professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and managing growth, can help in building a lean, profitable SME, or how I may be able to contribute at Board level, please get in touch:

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© Adrian Malpass 2021. All rights reserved.

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