I have just finished reading “Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs” by Guillem Balague. Presented as a diary that recounts the 2016/17 football season, I enjoyed it for two reasons:
1. It revealed what happens behind the scenes at a Premier League football club
2. It included useful messages about leadership and managing a diverse team to achieve results
It is the second aspect that I wanted to focus on.


10 points about leadership and management:
1. Don’t make decisions alone: Pochettino takes collective decisions with his backroom staff. He always asks for advice. They are his trusted advisors, each with a specific area of responsibility. Good leaders surround themselves with good teams and trust them to deliver in their respective areas of expertise.
2. Take responsibility: as the manager it is your job to praise the team publicly when appropriate, but take full responsibility and protect them when things go wrong.
3. Judge on ability and desire: do not allow age, profile, contract value etc. to be the only factors that drive recruitment. The willingness to work hard, bring ideas forward and work for the benefit of the team is more important.
4. Plan for the long-term: one of the striking comments in the book was that an underperforming player would be left on the pitch for as long as possible rather than being substituted straight away. The reason was to avoid damaging confidence and affecting results further down the line. It showed trust in ability and recognition that people can have an off day.
5. Avoid conflict when feeling emotional: after a particularly bad performance, Pochettino was so angry that he did not speak to the team or respond to messages until he had calmed down. He waited until he could speak to people personally (this is the same for disciplinary issues). I know I’ve had instances where the best cause of action has been to ignore an email or comment until you can address it more calmly and methodically.
6. Use as much information as possible before making a decision: when planning strategy a wealth of resources would be used including reports, video, conversations and more. Importantly, there was also space for creativity and intuition.
7. Have integrity: be true to your ideals and personal code of ethics, as well as the ethics of the organisation you work for and represent.
8. Mental and emotional state is as important as strategy and tactics: how you and your team feel has a huge impact on performance, even if you are perfectly drilled in your role. Take time to manage this and make sure that everyone is happy and healthy.
9. Messaging is important: the game starts from the press conference onwards. Choosing what to say and what not to say will influence a result – this is true in PR too.
10. You need a support network: away from work, your family and friends will help you to relax and unwind. Their support can reenergise you and provides the foundation that will allow you to reach your professional goals.

Although the book is from the perspective of a football manager, the lessons can be applied across different sectors and roles. Any of the ten things listed can improve your own approach to management and demonstrate positive leadership.

It has certainly made me consider the behaviours I exhibit and the impact they have on success.

Photo by Nathan Rogers on Unsplash

2 Replies to “10 leadership lessons from football management 

  1. Enjoyed reading this very much and have forwarded it to my School email. Hope all is good with you.

    Best wishes


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