Leadership and Lessons from Antonio Conte
What is leadership all about and why is it so important?
We often look to the world of sport for inspiration from outstanding leaders and winners. From the understated Andy Farrells’ brilliant success in building a happy and winning culture with the Ireland rugby team to Sir Alex Ferguson’s insistence on standards and values bringing decades of achievement, there is no end of noteworthy examples.
This week, however, we saw Tottenham Hotspurs’ manager Antonio Conte leave the club after an angry outburst criticising his players for ‘’playing only for themselves’’, being selfish and a week of backroom arguments with the club’s board and its owner, Daniel Levy. We are not too sure as to what the manager’s plans were, but it seemed as if he was almost goading the club to sack him.
It was a far cry from Ferguson’s steadfast policy of never publicly criticising his players or Andy Farrell’s cheerfully positive post-match interviews.
Leadership in any sphere of life centres around motivation and direction so that individuals or teams achieve their goals, be it in business, sport or politics.
One of the most important roles of leaders is to provide vision and how objectives can be achieved, with motivation, clarity of purpose and a guiding hand.
As Conte, Farrell and Ferguson will undoubtedly know, leaders and managers are often only as good as the team they have working with them. That is why each individual needs to be looked after and supported to be the best they can be.
While some leadership skills come naturally, others need to be developed, nurtured and worked upon over time. Talking less and constant listening are key to success. As the old saying goes, you have two ears, two eyes and one mouth, and they should be used in that proportion.
When I worked for Sir Alex he constantly spoke about his fear of losing momentum and control, especially the respect of his key players. He certainly understood that respect and expectations went both ways. He would expect a lot from his payers but they would also expect a lot of him.
Good leadership success is about being open and honest about information and decision making which will affect everyone involved. Constant two-way communication is key.
An inspiring leader is one who looks for, accepts and responds to employee and client feedback no matter whether is it positive or negative which in turn allows for flexibility and adaptability through hiring the right people for the right positions.
Another great leader I had the privilege of working with is Brian O’Driscoll. As a very young captain of the Irish rugby team and the British & Irish Lions, he was often daunted by the challenge and being surrounded by people who might have known much more than him about the game. However, he was always comforted in the knowledge that they were selected because they had the skills and ability to perform, giving him the confidence to see it through.
It was a shame for it all to go so pear-shaped for Conte. We can’t all be Alex Fergusons, but we can certainly learn from him that you have to maintain the respect of the dressing room and have the courage to see it through.