Learning from the greats

I must start this week’s blog by saying how sorry I was to hear of the death of Howard Kendall at the weekend. I grew up as a massive Everton fan, just at the time he was their manager. He built probably the greatest team Everton have ever had, and is held in great affection by all the club’s fans.

Reading the tributes paid to him over the weekend, I was struck by the number of his former players who were careful to stress what a great manager he was to work for. Perhaps one of the reasons he was successful was because people wanted to work hard and do well for him. Being fair and supportive to my staff is certainly an approach I have tried to adopt in my work.

Because I’m interested in sport I spend a lot of time looking at brilliant sports leaders, reading their biographies, and wondering if there is something really great that they do, that I can apply to my work. There was an iconic 1960s American Football coach called Woody Hayes, whose quotes are well worth looking up. One that really resonates with me is: “I’ve had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven’t run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can’t outwork you, then smarts aren’t going to do them much good.”

On a similar subject, there are three films out at the cinema about flawed leader role models that I really want to see:

“I Believe In Miracles” is the story of how Brian Clough took Nottingham Forest from nowhere to be champions of Europe. From Brian, I’ve learnt that simplicity is often key, and that sometimes you just have to do what you think is right, whether that makes you popular or not.

“The Program” is about the now-disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France six times before being stripped of those victories for drugs offences. There is still something about clearly understanding exactly what will make you successful, and methodically implementing it, which tells a tale in Lance’s story.

The third film I’m desperate to see is “SPECTRE.” I’m one of the biggest Bond fans going. But I wouldn’t claim to have learnt anything from 007!

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