The Charismatic League Tables for October 2015

October 6, 2015

Alexis TsiprasThis month, media attention turned to new entrants Nigel Farage, Andrew Castle, Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Tony Pidgley. But the award of charismatic leader of the month went to the re-elected Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras

The results were based on news stories studied in September 2015

Prime Minister Tsipras received the award for the manner of his re-election and his skill at maintaining his credibility over a period in which he went from leader of the opposition to austerity measures to the  leader in charge of enacting them. Technically he was elected leader of his party and then leader of the Government in a coalition.

Stories were also found which resulted in a reappraisal of the positions of politicians David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump, and football manager Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho has jumped to Division One for the manner of his interviews defending his lack of culpability over Chelsea’s bad start to the football season

Arsene Wenger, one of the butts of Jose Mourinho’s jibes, and also of Sir Alex’s recently published remarks, always defends himself logically in public, but with little charisma, and so enters in Division Four.

His former protagonist Sir Alex Ferguson returned from a period outside the headlines with a new best-selling book on business leadership. The vibrant illustrations of his leadership style indicate he exercised powerful influence although he denies being ‘a monster… in my reign’  [in his Reign.! Hmm] One to watch for a revival of his charismatic interviews which may even take him to the Premiership  of the Charismatic League, where he would surely want to be.

Jeremy Corbyn has attracted considerable media attention, and has been described as charismatic. His self-effacing style is unusual and he may well be a member of a rarer category of leader with some charismatic aspects yet perhaps closer to the leader of ‘humble style but with fierce determination’ written about by Jim Collins.

Nigel Farage made a strong charismatic impression on his UKIP conference audience,  and enters the tables in Division One.

Donald Trump has strengthened his position in Division One after several high impact performances where he cheerfully defends the  indefensible.

Andrew Castle attracted much criticism for his tennis commentaries particularly in the Davis Cup match between England and Australia. He seemed to have failed to engage viewers positively. He inspired the Face Book page Shut-Up-Andrew-Castle-you-know-nothing-about-Tennis Sorry Andrew. It’s Division Four for you, when you are keeping Tim Henman company.

Tony Pidgley of The Berkeley group received media attention for a life style that has a decidedly charismatic flavour to it, as he battled with activist shareholders who were seeking a more conventional leadership style of corporate governance. A worthy entry into the league tables.

The tables will be revised monthly until further notice. All proposals will be examined carefully by the editor of LWD before changes are made. The editor’s decision on such changes will be final. This utterly undemocratic process is one designed to avoid entryism, and other attempts to influence the league tables for personal interests.

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Swansea football success hints at leadership secrets

February 25, 2013

Michael LaudrupSwansea City’s victory in the Capital One Cup Final over Bradford City was hailed as a heart-warming story of sporting triumph. We examine its leadership themes

As Swansea City was winning its first major trophy in its hundred year history [February 24th, 2013], I was returning from the arctic city of Tromso, after a visit that deserves a future blog post of its own.

I arrived home early evening to hear the BBC football commentator Alan Green on a radio phone-in describe Swansea as ‘coming from the Welsh valleys’. Sorry Alan, that’s like describing Londonderry as ‘somewhere in Ireland’. Swansea is on the Gower Peninsula, to be found forty miles to the west of the Welsh valleys.

The story was creating itself

The match had recently finished. As I listened, the callers to the programme were creating an instant myth. Their story told of a glorious encounter between two teams of heroes. The arena was the great battle-ground of Wembley Stadium. This was not a battle of good and evil. Although Premier side Swansea was the clear prematch favourite, Bradford, three divisions below them, had reached the final through defeating among others the mighty Arsenal and Liverpool teams.

The battle of everyday heroes

In mythology, the ordinary becomes heroic in battle. In this myth, both Bradford and Swansea had become heroic. The central heroes were the players who fought out the battle. There were also the battalions of supporters, not fighting against each other but witnesses to the performance. At the end of the match, rival fans embraced in respect. There was a tragic hero in the figure of the Bradford goal-keeper who fate decreed had unwittingly broken the rules, and was dismissed from the field, not in disgrace but in an act of atonement.

The glorious battle

The battle was fought not for the annihilation of an enemy but for the celebration of the encounter. Swansea ‘gave an exhibition’ which means a celebration of beauty in the performance. They won 5-0, a record score for the competition.

The apotheosis of Laudrup

The phone-in also revealed the elevation to the heights of the Swansea manager Michael Laudrup. The former Danish international player had helped create the team and its a free-flowing style. His gracious post-Match interview, speech acknowledging the achievements of Bradford was recognized as one showing authentic leadership.

His managerial acumen was shown by his skills at early identification of the talents of the Spanish player, Michu, ahead of the scouting teams of the wealthy European giants.

Laudrup’s destiny?

Already we can see ahead the inevitable outcome of mythic success. Laudrup, through the glorious victory of his team, will leave the little club of Swansea City. There is already talk that he is destined to replace another great football manager, Arsene Wenger, at Arsenal.

A Cast of Heroes

Classical Drama requires an entire cast of heroes. Before and beyond the battle can be found the wise chief. The Swansea City chairman could claim credit for seeking out managers with the spirit to lead the club to greatness. His earlier choices were Roberto Martinez and then Brendon Rodgers . Their success at Swansea meant that they were fated to accept a move away for an offer they could not refuse.

Next year

Next year, as winners of the League Cup, Swansea will play in European competition. The myth will continue its fated path. Victories will bring glory. Glories will fade into memory. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Getting into Fergie’s mind (games). Cathy Cassell may have one answer

May 14, 2011

Cathy Cassell

Sir Alex Ferguson’s mind and his mind-games over his period as manager of Manchester United Football Club have been much discussed in football circles. Such leadership behaviours require careful analysis. Which is where someone like Professor Cathy Cassell may have an answer.

A starting point for studying an individual’s leadership behaviours is to select a set of critical incidents which collectively throw light on the person and their behaviour patterns over an extended time period. That is what sports journalist Michael Carr did recently [May 2011]. His top ten Alex Ferguson incidents are:

1. Treble champions (1998/1999)

2. You don’t win anything with kids & managerial mind games (1995/1996)

3. Putting the boot in (that David Beckham dressing room injury 2002/2003)

4. Rivalry with Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger (1996 – Today)

5. First Premiership Crown (1992/1993)

6. A battle of footballing philosophies (with Jose Mourhino’s Chelsea 2006/2007)

7. A dramatic turnaround (Arsenal snatch championship defeat in March 2003)

8. Surpassing Liverpool’s nineteen league titles (to be confirmed, Confirmed May 14th 2011. 2010/2011)

9. Panorama accusations (after which, AF refuses to give interviews to BBC, 2004)

10. You’ve gotta be joking ref! (FA punishment for various comments about referees, 2011)

First impressions

The stories provide a wealth of information about one of the most successful leaders in Football of all time. They provide ‘compare and contrast’ opportunities with two other great managers (Wenger and Mourniho). They remind us that leaders are humans with human faults and weaknesses. A besotted fan might find plausible explanations to explain dressing-room outbursts like the one which speeded up David Beckham’s departure as a strength. Leadership theories might treat this as an unintended consequence rather than part of a grand strategy to get rid of David Beckham.

Critical incident analysis

Professor Cathy Cassell is a distinguished management scholar and long-time football supporter. She teaches her students at Manchester Business School qualitative research methods, including critical incident analysis. This approach helps a researcher identify the various themes which recur within a set of stories and their critical incidents. So come on Cathy. Let’s be ‘avin you. How about putting Sir Alex under the microscope on your courses next year?

Alan Green, Arsenal and humiliation theory

February 21, 2011

Alan Green illustrated the potency of humiliation theory in a single remark after Arsenal’s drawn FA cup-tie with Leyton Orient

Alan Green has earned numerous plaudits as a BBC sports reporter, and particularly as a football commentator. His style captures the richness of popular opinion. He is passionate and opinionated. He remains one a fierce critic of all things stupid as he sees them. Among his targets are the malign impact of money on football, the crassness of the Football Association, the duplicity of FIFA, the ineptness of referees, the exploitation of fans, and … [well you’ve got the idea]. For all that, he is worth listening to. His pungency does not need deconstructing for hidden agendas. But his words may still reveal deeper emotional influences.

Pulsating end

Speaking in Radio 5s 606 talk-back programme yesterday [20th February 2011] he was discussing with a caller the pulsating end of the Leyton Orient/ Arsenal FA cup tie. The minnows battled to snatch a draw against The Gunners. Alan adores the FA cup (or the magic of the cup, as he puts it).

Humbled or humiliated?

Sadly I didn’t write down his exact words but here’s my best attempt at capturing them. Isn’t that the magic of the cup when a great team like Arsenal can be humbled in that way?

Eureka! ‘Humbled’. For humbled read humiliated. That was the motivation behind the commentary on MUFC against Crawley Town the day before: a yearning for the downfall of the mighty. Humiliation theory applied to football. But not complete obliteration but hubristic come-uppance of the mighty by the humble.

He doesn’t really hate Arsenal

What is not is a loathing of Arsenal. Alan Green has an equally non-judgemental enthusiasm for the way Arsenal plays football under its quixotic coach Arsene Wenger. His praise for the team mid-week in defeating the even mightier Barcelona was unstinting. No. This is more a display of human motivation rooted in social identity and insecurities. Humiliation theory is alive and well, and has impact beyond the football terraces.

Arsene Wenger and Mark Hughes: Even Fifth-level Leaders can be Petulant

December 4, 2009


I have tended to think of football managers Mark Hughes and Arsene Wenger as good examples of Fifth Level Leaders. But that doesn’t make them perfect

The thought struck me after this week’s spat between two men who have earned much respect in their managerial careers as football managers. Wenger can hardly appear on our domestic TV screen without Susan declaring her unshakeable approval of Father Abbot. My admiration for Mark Hughes goes beyond the fact that he would have been a most successful Manager for Wales if the country had been a tenth as rich as Arabia.

Some while ago I nominated Wenger and Hughes as examples of fifth level leaders after the concept advocated by Business guru Jim Collins. My admiring comments included the following appreciation:

I would say that the style of the fifth-level manager has most obviously been exhibited, over an adequate time period, by Arsene Wenger of Arsenal, who has been rightly admired for creating teams that are built to last. For many years, he has displayed the fifth-level style, which is partly that of an absence not a presence. The absence is of behaviours that appear to be driven by personal ego, sometimes to the detriment of the short-term consequences. As we saw above, fifth-level leaders were not aggressive, not self-promoting and not self-congratulatory.

Among the younger managers, I would nominate Mark Hughes of Blackburn Rovers FC as a fifth-level leader in the making. If I am right, he epitomizes the absence of what might be termed ‘aggressiveness in the service of the ego’. As a player, aggressiveness was the hallmark of his style, although he had a far gentler inter-personal style off the pitch.

Public Petulance

Anyway, this week, the two men had a very public display of petulance on the touch-line of the Man City v Arsenal FC cup tie. Mark Hughes’ Manchester City won rather easily. Wenger’s policy of playing his brilliant emerging players backfired. I haven’t found out what it was all about, but it all ended with Wenger losing gracelessly, stalking down the tunnel apparently making a big gesture of not shaking hands with Hughes. Hughes gesticulated angrily at the retreating Wenger.

The Perfection Myth

Big deal. The Media made much of it.

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger recorded another touchline bust-up after Arsenal’s 3-0 Carling Cup defeat, adding to his more infamous tirades against fellow managers.

Childish. Well, yes it was a bit. But why all the fuss? I can’t help thinking it is because the myth of the Great Leader still lurks behind the cool rationality of a more modern age. We still seek perfection in our attempts to understand what makes a good leader great. So, one more time, you don’t have to imitate slavishly all the behaviours of successful managers. You don’t have to rant and rave at players who are not performing. Maybe the ranting and raving has a short-term effect in the heat of battle. Maybe it’s sometimes valuable. Maybe it’s a style which tips over into uncontrollable ranting, or other regressive behaviours.

The style of a fifth level leader tends towards a controlled approach in which quiet determination is linked to fierce resolve. But self-control stores up other psychic pressures. It may lead to the occasional outburst in frustration and disappointment. It is at odds with our views of how great leaders perform. It’s time we came to terms with the myth of perfection.