This week, Scott examines the qualities of leadership and then determines which of the top six managers have them...and which ones don't.
The monologue is provided below for your reading pleasure. If you want to listen to the monologue as recorded for our podcast feed, click within the Soundcloud block at the bottom of the page.
Hello, my name is Scott. Today, I'm going to take a shot at bad leadership. In my full-time job, I have the privilege of leading a department that employs more than 100 people. During this experience, I have learned a lot about how to lead, manage, and motivate fellow professionals so that they will perform for me and my department, and help us all to succeed along the way.
I do not say this to elevate myself. Instead, I want to demonstrate that I speak from at least a little bit of experience about how leadership works in general. And while I've never managed a football club, I believe I can still speak to bad leadership in general when I see it.
Managing a professional football club is an interesting career. At the risk of oversimplification, a manager has to excel in two key areas in order to succeed in his position.
First, he must be able to excel tactically. He needs to know how he wants to play against each opponent with the squad of players that he has in order to maximize the potential of the overall team. If the transfer window is open, he needs to know what players he needs to bring in so that his club will succeed at an even higher level in future matches.
The second thing a manager needs to do is to lead his personnel. A manager might have excellent tactics, but it means nothing if his players are not willing to put forth their maximum effort to play for him and his system.
This is not always easy, for a variety of reasons. First, a manager is one person. There are 20-30 players playing for him. When things go wrong, which is easier to get rid of -- the one manager or the 30 players?
Jose Mourinho learned this lesson once again at Manchester United earlier this season. When things went wrong, did they transfer Pogba out in the January window? No. How about the other 15 players who were underperforming? No. They sacked Mourinho. That's how things work.
At many professional clubs, the players are making more money than their managers. When that is the case, a manager lacks the authority to make his player do what he wants him to do; he certainly cannot do it in an authoritarian way. This is why you don't see very many managers succeed at the top levels who are dictators to their players.
That leaves an approach in which a manager works through his players to accomplish the results that everyone mutually wants. That manager needs to work harder than his players. This shows those players that the manager is bought in and wants to see them succeed.
Along the way, he needs to convince them that his system works. Those players have to believe that, if they just follow their manager, they will win.
The manager needs to listen. If a player has a question about how he should fulfill his role, the manager needs to answer it with depth and with conviction. If a player questions the system, the manager can't feel threatened. He needs to be able to explain WHY his way is the best way.
There is a give-and-take involved in the manager-player relationship. Everyone should know that the manager gets to make the final decision, but he needs to show his players that he is willing to listen to ideas and communicate why he is doing what he does.
The top 6 clubs provide fascinating case studies in leadership. No one doubts that Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp demand near-perfection from their players, and yet, players love to play for them. Pep and Jurgen both have the most withering looks when they are angry, but they are also the first to embrace their players when they want to communicate positivity.
For all of the news Spurs have made by not making any transfers now for over a year, have you noticed any of the current players show frustration at their manager? Does anyone look like they are not bought in to what Mauricio Pochettino is doing to lead his team? He is an example of a term you often hear; he is a "man-manager."
Those three managers are positive case studies. One that is still playing out in front of us is Arsenal. After decades of Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery is now in his first season at manager. Emery is attempting to mold the club in his image -- something that takes at least 2-3 years to do. At times he makes decisions that frustrate ardent Arsenal fans, but it is clear that he is attempting to do something.
So far, the players seem to be playing for him -- well, except for the ones that aren't, like Ozil and maybe Ramsey. Will they stay with their manager? Will the fans? Even if they finish 5th this season? They should. Emery has shown that he deserves a real chance, but sadly, real chances take longer than most clubs are willing to give. Luckily, no one is more patient than Arsenal, so there's hope.
That brings us to Manchester United and Chelsea. I'll start with Chelsea and their manager Mauricio Sarri. Sarri is old-school. He has a specific style of play that works when the right players are in the right positions. Sarri, however, does not have that. He joined Chelsea late in the summer, and has only had the opportunity to bring in a couple of players who fit his system. Every one else -- the players he inherited -- are struggling to figure it out each week.
Meanwhile, Sarri does not seem to be a nice man. He's an emotionally detached, set in his ways, chain smoker who tends to berate his players when they fail. He has chosen the dictatorial route of leadership.
For all the reasons discussed earlier, that will not work. His players will just take the route of least resistance in their attempts to outlast him. They already know that they can do that. They will do whatever it takes to just survive until the sack. It wouldn't surprise me if it already happens before the end of this season.
That's what Manchester United's players did. Mourinho was a dictator, and he lost his players. The players literally waited it out. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was put in charge as a caretaker manager, and he let them have the freedom that they wanted -- maybe even that they needed in order to perform at their best.
There is no doubting the fact that the players have responded to the change in a positive way. The players are all having fun again, and their performances prove it -- no one more so than Pogba.
But he should be careful. It's arguable as to whether or not Solskjaer is actually in charge. If Pogba doesn't put in any effort in an upcoming match and ol' Ole decides to bench him, how will Paul respond? Will he respect his manager's authority and learn from his mistake? Maybe. It would depend on whether or not Ole Gunnar has the other leadership skills that I described earlier. If he doesn't, then all he will be is the next Antonio Conte.
These types of leadership skills are not always evident in public. It's up to Solskjaer's boss at the club to determine why he is getting the results that he is. If he's just being a caretaker manager -- letting the players play, which, because of their talent, is working for now -- he should not be brought back next season. However, if he is a truly good leader who is currently leading the likes of Pogba, Rashford, and De Gea, then he should be kept.
Great leaders are hard to find. The Premier League has some, though. Pep, Klopp, and Poch...add in Nuno and Eddie Howe from the middle of the table as well. And there's more, of course.
The jury is still out on Unai Emery and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But not Mauricio Sarri. He's terrible. It's not entirely his fault. The players at Chelsea have known for decades that they are in charge. Ultimately, though, no squad can have sustained success if the players are in charge. Every squad needs a leader. For Chelsea, Sarri is not that guy.