Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lessons from The Damned United

The movie, The Damned United which is the core matter for the preceding post contains some principles that may be extracted for business leadership and, of late and, possibly more importantly, for political leadership.

The protagonist, Brian Clough (played most excellently by Michael Sheen) was an ascerbic and caustic maverick with a gigantic ego. His 44-day saga as manager of the then-English First Division League Champions, Leeds United offers interesting lessons.

First, keep your most loyal man beside you. Clough ditched his long-time deputy, Peter Taylor in a fit of hubris. Taylor is the type of deputy every mercurial leader needs. While Clough went on his visonary exploits, he needed Taylor to put the nuts and bolts together. Taylor was the talent-spotter. Taylor was the one players went to after another tempestous outburst by Clough. Taylor was the man who patched the team together. Every leader needs a deputy like Taylor. Needless to say, without Taylor's soft skills, Clough was quickly left in an alienated position in Leeds United.

Second, build the team spirit. The first time Clough met with the highly-decorated Leeds United team he antagonised them by telling them that they won their trophies by cheating. This is hardly the way to get a team spirit going.

Third, taking over a team or organisation with a successful past track record requires patience. The new leader can never emulate nor imitate his predescessor. But, that does not mean that the new leader should go on an iconoclastic binge of destroying the predescessor's reputation or trivialise his record. Instead, he needs to patiently deconstruct and, then, reconstruct. This is a process that takes time.

Fourth, the leader who ignores the above principles is not lost. He or she can move on to achieve great things again through another club or organisation.


walla said...

Also instructive are the lessons for leaders molded by the White House Fellowship Program:

Leaders know there is more to life than work.

Leaders focus on the mission.

Leaders have a laserlike focus on their people.

Leaders root out prejudices in themselves and others.

Leaders act with integrity.

Leaders create a sense of urgency.

Leaders have passion.

Leaders are persistent.

Leaders are great communicators.

Leaders ask the tough questions that need to be asked.

Leaders take risk.

Leaders understand that not every battle is the end of the war.

Leaders energize their people.

Leaders are great listeners.

Leaders are persuasive.

Leaders know when to compromise and when to stand firm.

Leaders are problem solvers.

Leaders lead by walking around.

Leaders are transformational change agents.

Leaders lead through experience and competence, not through title or position.

Anonymous said...

I remember Brian Clough as one of the most interesting quotes among football managers...


Go Leeds!


de minimis said...

bro JMD

Your kind support for Leeds warms my heart to no end :D