When Michael Owen was signed for Manchester United by coach Sir Alex Ferguson, I was reminded of decisions made by that other great leader Napoleon Bonaparte …
My musing had been prompted by a group of executives who recently nominated a video for shared study. Their choice presented information about the leadership styles of Sir Alex and Napoleon. Struck me as a bit bizarre, and I would welcome a contribution on the video which I have not yet seen.
Then news of more evidence of Alex Ferguson and his leadership style.
Manchester United Football Club sign up Michael Owen
A cool analysis of the deal comes from BBC’s sporting blogger Phil McNulty
Sir Alex Ferguson placed his faith [July 2nd 2009] in something he trusts far more than a glossy brochure when he picked up the phone and offered Michael Owen a new home at Manchester United.
Owen’s management team produced the 32-page magazine advertising their client’s qualities ..but
Ferguson does not do brochures to buy players. Pure instinct and the love of a punt is often enough and the shock pursuit of Owen, mocked only days ago when Hull City and Stoke City declared an interest, is a prime example
Ferguson has got form for the maverick deal. Eric Cantona was not a regular at Leeds United when Ferguson took him across the M62 and elevated him to [one of] Old Trafford’s legends.
Laurent Blanc was an itch Ferguson simply had to scratch and that was not a huge success, but Teddy Sheringham came late to Old Trafford and cleaned up on silverware, while the veteran Henrik Larsson made a contribution when he joined United on loan from Helsingborg in December 2006.
Do not bet against Owen having the last laugh.
For Owen, the deal is a huge victory. For United and Ferguson it represents a gamble – but it is a gamble based on some sound footballing logic and one that others might yet regret not taking.
More about Sir Alex Ferguson
Alex Ferguson has been widely reported as a leader of outstanding talent and achievements in the world of football. As they say in the personal development books, Fergie has also been considered to have allowable weaknesses: News reports present him as autocratic, irascible, and with a (literally) in-your-face way of communicating how he feels. That contrasts with considerable evidence of a natural courtesy in everyday encounters when he has been able to escape from the bubble of publicity.
More about Napoleon
You will find lots of essay-filling undergraduate stuff on Napoleon as leader, tyrant and hero. Much of it is a poor substitute for reading more deeply. Dauntingly, even that will do no more than rouse interests in the historical context of the man and his actions.
If you have sights set a little lower, try this for an examination crib
Schubert on Napoleon
Jeff Schubert is a regular contributor to Leaders we deserve. His studies of tyrannical leaders have included one of Napoleon.
According to Jeff Schubert, who has studied board room tyrants, tells how Napoleon worked diligently to convey his indispensability. Schubert summarises Napoleon’s remarks on his return from the ill-fated Moscow campaign. In meeting with some senior officials, Napoleon’s first words were:
“Well, well, gentlemen, Fortune dazzled me. I let myself be carried away, instead of following the plan I had made and that I spoke of to you. … I had thought to gain in a year what only two campaigns could achieve. I have made a great blunder; but I shall have the means to retrieve it.”
Napoleon later commented to Caulaincourt: “The terrible
bulletin has had its effect, but I see that my presence is giving more pleasure than our disasters give pain.”
I like the willingness to accept to his closest followers that he had made a mistake. Also the unshakeable belief in the long-term success of his planning.
The Michael Owen decision
I’m not convinced that Manchester United will win a great victory through the Owen decision. It’s a calculated risk, and all leaders make mistakes from time to time. Fergie, and Napoleon before him, for example found that campaigns ending in Moscow can end in brutal failure.
No, my reasoning is because the Michael Owen decision has all the hallmarks of audacity and imagination which made it almost unthinkable until it was made. That’s a sign of creative leadership in action. To understand that we have to look at the processes as well as the outcomes of a leader’s decisions and actions.
Let’s watch this story to see if the great football General has to admit to a mistake, or accept the deserved plaudits for the risk he took with Michael Owen.