Managers for all seasons

20th January 2006 at 00:00
OK, you're not all that interested in football. Neither am I, really. But we've both heard of Bobby Charlton. A key member of the 1966 England World Cup team, he captained Manchester United to the European Cup in 1968.

Unsurprisingly, when he stopped playing in 1973 he was snapped up as a club manager by Preston North End. They were relegated in his first season.

Other talented players - Chris Waddle, John Barnes, even the legendary Stanley Matthews - were unsuccessful managers.

On the other hand, what sort of playing career did Sven-Goran Eriksson have? Or Arsene Wenger? You've no idea - because the answer is that they didn't do much at all. (Eriksson, a semi-professional, retired injured at 28.) You can see where this is going. Being a manager is different from being a player. Being a headteacher is different from being a teacher. In fact, it's arguable that too much ability in either sphere can actually get in the way.

"If something comes naturally to a person, it can be difficult for them to convey how they do it to someone who does not possess such innate skill.

Moreover, a talented individual can find someone with lesser ability frustrating to deal with. (Stanley Matthews would demonstrate a skill, then say, "That's what I want. Now you do it." Have you met heads like that?) The quote and the examples come from The 90-Minute Manager by David Bolchover and Chris Brady (Pearson). It's an absorbing read, and it doesn't matter whether you know anything about football or not because the lessons are clear and fascinating.

The central point of the book is that football management brings the broad issues of leadership into stark and immediate focus. So much of it has resonances for school leadership - the need to make hard decisions, the trick of knowing everybody and their families by name, the ability to plan for the long haul, the importance of a new leader being sensitive to the existing traditions. And perhaps above all, the apparently simple matter of having self-belief and just being in charge.

As one manager quoted puts it:"The first thing you must do when you walk through the door is take charge. Then, every morning after that, look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Do I want to be in charge?' If the answer is not an immediate yes, then get out."

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