Brazil, Italy, Spain, Germany and France – England next? The football world champions of this century have one common factor: effective leadership. With the 2022 World Cup starting imminently in Qatar, individual, team and coach performance will once again be scrutinized by fans and broadcast professionals.
Unlike many other types of leaders, football coaches are highly visible and expected to achieve victory to retain their positions. With this in mind, experts at Hogan Assessments – the global leader in workplace personality assessment and leadership development – have identified three leadership tips for taking the national team to victory.
Leadership is about building and maintaining a high-performing team, not individual results
Sports leadership is not about getting to the top of an organisation. It is about ensuring that a team is operating at the highest possible level to triumph over the competition. Football specifically places team success squarely on the coach’s shoulders. A team is defined by common leadership, common goals, and shared success or failure. Therefore, the actions of one person often affect the outcomes for everyone else. Didier Deschamps, coach of the French national team once said: “Beyond quality and talent, there are two important aspects: that of the notion of the group and the state of mind.”
A successful coach should be able to coordinate player efforts and encourage members to trust and depend on each other for overall team success. “Coaches need to nurture their teams and be aware of how best to cater to each player’s skills and talents to maintain a winning position and an effective handle on their role as a leader,” said Ryne Sherman, PhD, chief science officer at Hogan Assessments.
Understanding the personality of players can help coaches make smarter strategic decisions
To create an effective match strategy, coaches must take into consideration the human aspect of the team and its athletes. In terms of personality, elite athletes are competitive, hardworking, organised, goal-driven and motivated individuals. These characteristics play a big role in the decisions made by players during a match. In this sense, Gareth Southgate, former player and coach of the UK national team since 2016, has commented on the topic saying, “It’s important to recognise every player is different in their characteristics, personality and what they respond to.”
Personality and the team-focused nature of leadership in football are particularly important when coaches must make changes to their teams. “These situations clearly illustrate the complexity of leadership in sports, where performance alone cannot be the only defining criteria. Personality, particularly in adverse contexts, is also a determinant factor in this decision-making process,” added Sherman.
Being aware of how others perceive them can help coaches to better grow and develop within their leadership role
Pep Guardiola, Manchester United’s coach, has been quoted on what he thinks makes a great coach. He said: “What characterises a good coach? What the players will say about him when it’s all over.” Players within a team respond to the decisions of their coach. A relatively recent and drastic example of this point was the decision made by Zlatko Dalic, the Croatian coach who led the national team to the final of the 2018 World Cup for the first time in history. After Nikola Kalinic refused to enter the match against Nigeria, Dalic expelled him from the squad. This tough decision showed his leadership.
By becoming more aware of how they are perceived by their players and other notable figures within the sporting community, managers can identify aspects within themselves and their teaching and training styles that can be improved. In turn, this self-awareness will help them to grow both personally and professionally.
Sherman summarised how personality assessments can also help sports professionals to develop within their careers. “At Hogan, we help leaders in a multitude of professions to distinguish their strengths and weaknesses and identify specific development opportunities. This strategic self-awareness can help leaders grow within their roles and determine exactly what their team needs to thrive.”