Not another football analogy on Leadership!?


I have read many analogies on sports and leadership and teams but having watched the Everton v Bolton game last night I thought I would put my slant on it.
Anyone who knows the English Premier League will be aware that it is a much more competitive competition this year. But I was thinking, is it really more competitive or are teams just not getting the best out of their players?
Bolton easily washed aside Everton last night and the reason why was clear to anyone who watched it. There were 11 players on the Everton side, no revelation there then, but sure enough there was no team or leader to be found on the park.

Bolton did not win because they had world-class players, they won because each and every individual on their side played together and worked hard for each other. You only had to look at the midfield for Bolton. Both centre mids supported each other….when one lost the ball or was being closed down by the opposition, the other was there to help out by either covering his colleague or making sure he was available for the pass. Up front the strikers held good positions and knocked the ball down for each other to ensure that Bolton kept possession. When Bolton’s centre back got injured and had to be replaced, the new player was high fived by all of his colleagues and there was a definite sense of teamwork.

Everton on the other hand seemed lacklustre and off the pace. Cahill, who is normally one of the driving forces for the team was quiet all game and nothing summed up the mood more than when a misplaced pass was picked off by Bolton and the Everton striker then started shouting at his team mate for a poor pass while looking dejected. Not once did I see the Everton skipper trying to gel his side, spur them into being more passionate or lead by example. The Everton starting line-up has been together for a long time, so there was no justification for their poor play related to not knowing each other or not having played together on numerous occasions. So my analysis is that for some reason, there is a rift in the team. This could be down to leadership, team cohesion or just not being motivated to win.

As mentioned, Bolton have no stand out stars in their team that win matches for them, no Ronaldo in sight, but the manager has obviously managed to get them all playing to and sticking to a game plan and playing for each other. As per my previous blog on leadership, only 20% of the time is the golden boot award winner at the World Cup in the team that actually wins the World Cup. Business is no different… can have a key talent in your head count, but you can’t solely rely on that individual. You need to instil teamwork and a common sense of purpose in your group. Create and build a winning mentality within your staff. Your competitors will have staff that are just as talented working for them, so the cutting edge will be who can make them work as a team and support each other to reach a common goal. This is what a true leader manages to do.

Similar to a football match, the main leader will be on the side line, shouting tactics and overseeing things, they need a captain on the pitch to implement strategy, lead by example and interact with the other players….in essence communicate. A CEO of a major company cannot be in the thick of it 24/7, they must be able to rely on certain individuals in their organisation to communicate and drive the tactics and ethos that the business has set.

You may also like to read another related post on the successful leadership of Barcelona FC here:


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