The king is dead! Well, retired anyway….

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson

True to his extensive use of misinformation, Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement three days after categorically denying it. Cue eulogies and analysis of why he has been so successful. So, for observers of leadership, does he provide a role model we should emulate? For sure, we would love his success in our own worlds. But would we be happy to adopt his widely reported temper, aggression and public fallings-out in order to be so?

The answer is that we don’t have to. Like all of us, ‘Sir Alex’ is a unique individual and had to find his own formula for success; one that suited him and him alone. And even he had to modify his style to maintain his success over the years that he  managed Manchester United.

For leaders, role models should really only serve to remind us to value our talents. Sometimes, we undervalue abilities that come naturally to us, forgetting that they are important to our capability to lead. Thus, from the myriads who have commented on his positive qualities this weekend, Sir Alex should serve as a prompt for those that:

  • Have a feel for the dynamics of their industry
  • Are fascinated by their competitors
  • Like to acknowledge the concerns and even existence of individuals
  • Are prepared to be ruthless when required
  • Like to stay ahead of ‘the curve’[1]
  • Hate to be predictable
  • Put effort into seeking and keeping the right people
  • Constantly seek excellence in what oversee

While Ferguson’s talents are many and stories of his private generosity and acts of unexpected kindness abound, he was still clearly a difficult man to deal with. But that is a choice he made – or at least hopefully it was a choice rather than a psychopathic tendency – and emphasises how conscious of ourselves we need to be as leaders.

[1] In this case, replacing or moving to the sidelines players before they peak


One comment

  1. Steve O'Donnell · · Reply

    Mike, I liked the article I think it is right to concentrate on what we are good at as individuals and not to necessarily try and be the same as others. That does not mean to imply that we should stop learning. Learning is always the key to improvement

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