'Klopp's Liverpool triumph is a model for teachers'

Teachers could learn a lot from the unconditional positive regard shown by the Liverpool manager, writers teacher Kate Martin – and not just because she's a fan of the team
1st July 2020, 4:07pm


'Klopp's Liverpool triumph is a model for teachers'

The Power Of Positive Leadership Can Work Wonders

Watching a tearful Jurgen Klopp attempt to verbalise a response to winning the Premiership title last Thursday night was a powerful thing.

He couldn't find the words to express the emotions he was feeling, on behalf of the players, the team around them and the fans as a whole. It felt really special.

I love Klopp and not just because I'm a fan of the club, but because I honestly believe there is much those of us working in education could learn from the Liverpool manager.

Empathy and drive

Of course, he's a fantastic leader - the kind I aspire to be - having just enough confidence to shine in his own right, but without the cockiness of some other football managers out there.

He has the empathy needed to support others around him and help them to excel, without needing to take the credit for being the secret behind their success.

But, maybe most importantly, he seeks to understand his team on a level that goes beyond what they can do but instead looks to who they actually are.

However, it's not his leadership that I'm referring to when I talk about learning from him.

The thing that I love the most about Klopp is the way he shows his players his absolute unconditional positive regard.

Thriving and rising again

Unconditional positive regard is the psychological term that refers to accepting and supporting a person exactly as they are; coupled with the belief that every person has the resources within themselves to thrive if given that environment of acceptance.

In terms of schools, how might this look?

Well, to me, it means valuing the children in our care as individuals with their own stories, passions and insecurities; making clear in our words, actions and demeanour that we'll be there whether they are expressing "good" behaviours and emotions or "bad" ones.

It doesn't mean binning boundaries or high expectations, it merely means that we'll still be there, valuing them, even when missteps happen or boundaries are tested.

Acceptance and safety

A culture of acceptance is also an essential part of learning in the classroom - pupils need to feel safe to make mistakes and to try difficult things in order too fully reach their potential - and a teacher who embodies joy, pride and acceptance will help this culture evolve.

This unconditional acceptance is what makes for the kind of powerful relationships evident between Jurgen Klopp and his team.

It's what makes those famous Klopp hugs so powerful. And these strong relationships, for me, are what make me love my job so much.

Sadio Mané said in a recent interview that Klopp was like a father to his players - showing how much he cares whether they are celebrating victories or making poor decisions that contribute to a defeat.

He said that Klopp has high expectations of his players, but the love he shows them makes them more able to realise these expectations on the pitch - he helps them use their personal internal resources to be the best version of themselves.

This love (or what I would term unconditional positive regard) is consistently evident in Klopp's manner  - whether that's with pitch-side hugs or in post-match interviews.

We'll never know who Klopp believes is his best player or who he likes the most (or even who he finds it hard to be around) because he shows the same, consistent, acceptance and respect to all his team.

And that's what we, as teachers, need to take from Klopp as a manager - all our pupils need to feel cared about, valued and accepted.

Kate Martin is vice-principal at Restormel Academy, an alternative provision school in Cornwall. She is on Twitter @k8martin

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