Is it wise for the leader to publicly criticise his people?

Brendan Rodgers
Photo by Bernard Chan

“We will give them everything to help them to be better, but if they don’t want to show that self-motivation – (that) hunger to succeed – then it can be very difficult.”[1] So said Brendan Rodgers of Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique, two of the players he inherited when he took over as manager at Liverpool FC to lead a renaissance in their fortunes. This was said in public at a press conference, and was of course widely reported.

Some would argue that this was an unnecessarily aggressive way of dealing with players and should have been done in private. Others would say that footballers are celebrities who live in the public eye, so it’s fine to ‘manage’ in public too.

So what was going on there in leadership terms? Brendan Rodgers prides himself on being a good ‘man manager’, so why hang one of your players out to dry in public like that? Most good leaders traditionally absorb external pressure for their players rather than create it. Has Brendan ‘lost the plot’?

The answer, of course, is that nobody knows. What we do know, however, is that it’s a very symbolic act that will carry messages to every single member of the team. It is difficult to imagine that anybody playing for Liverpool is in any doubt that Brendan wants 100% from each player, and that it is dangerous to ‘take your foot off the gas’.

How many business leaders deliver the same level of clarity about what they want from their staff? Do you?

The other aspect of this is that these players also know exactly what their manager thinks of them i.e. where they stand. Too often, Managers tell me about the failings of their subordinates and peers and how they are concerned about their performance. And when I ask whether the individuals concerned know about those concerns, the answer is frequently ‘no’. This creates all sorts of difficulties, particularly as people do usually want to know where they stand. Which leads to a second leadership challenge:

Do the staff you work with know where they stand in your eyes?

[1] Reported by Dominic King, Mail Online, 28 Sep 2012 Go to article


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