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Fabio Capello, Football God or Leadership Genius?

June 7, 2010

Fabio Capello

I was reading an article on Fabio Capello in this weeks Observer (those that know me can get off the floor now) and it got me thinking about the merits of his described style, what were the limitations and how this translated to the corporate world.

His style is described as composing:

  • a ‘meritocratic ethos’ rather than ‘celebrity narcissism’
  • a thoroughness; plotting a course through tournaments (which includes, apparently how to conserve energy, how to use each player, when to unleash surprises).
  • a sense of autocratic directiveness

It seems to me that this style could translate well off the field.

Meritocratic Ethos

If you operate this sense of meritocratic ethos, you move away from favouritism and cliques to encouraging people to demonstrate their best. This isn’t, as often thought,  working long hours. That is the narcissistic view of needing to have your face seen, your results and the results of your staff should speak for themselves. It is having the courage to work in way that delivers results and not paying too much attention to the games that are played. Staff who worked with Advertising Guru, Jack Foster, didn’t have their holiday’s monitored as he knew that well rested staff deliver best and often have the great idea away from the office whilst letting their conscious brain take a break and giving the subconscious brain a look in. (And staff who are allowed to be creative are motivated and only take the holiday they need).

Thoroughness

Capello’s style appears to be Research, Research, Research and then make your own decision. This works in the way that many great leaders  get their best ideas, research thoroughly, sleep on it and then make your decision based on what your instincts tell you, avoiding analysis paralysis. We know that it isn’t really instinct but giving your brain the chance to do a complex filtering process and so when you make a decision you know it is the right decision. After all to achieve the next step you (and only you) will need to know it is the right decision.  As Capello says about his research for playing in South Africa,  “We are always looking for the right answers. I have spoken to many people who have been in this environment, different managers, to better understand what really happens over 40 days of being together. But after all these conversations, it will be my decisions and my style that must take us forward.”

Autocratic Directiveness

Capello does ‘not .. encourage a cult of the leader in the style of Mourinho, but to insist on group obedience to his instructions and authority’. Now this is controversial, as often, this is the style that is often pilloried. Yet there is a time and place and a football field is probably one of them. His players, are always clear about what he expects of them and the individualised results he wants them to deliver.  Although this style, might not encourage independence of thought, it does enable his players to flourish in a meritocracy as they know what the outcome is.  So to translate this into a corporate world, a directive style has a place: setting the big picture outcomes and occasionally the detail. Just remember whatever, style you adopt at a particular time (having thought through what’s appropriate to the context) commit to it.  Leaders who have a specific way that they want to their follower to do something but can’t quite commit to being directive, leave their followers confused and themselves frustrated and vice versa for a non-directive style.

I’m really not qualified to say whether Capello’s style will get us through the world cup as of course a Leader is only as good as his followers. What I would say is that he appears to command respect from a notoriously fickle English team and fans alike. So may be his style, or at least aspects of it,  would translate well to the boardroom, keeping both staff and shareholders happy.

With thanks to Paul Hayward’s article : If the Italian Alf Ramsey can’t do it, nobody can  – The Observer  6.6.10

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7 Comments leave one →
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  4. lee permalink
    June 8, 2010 7:13 am

    good read…again. think you have missed off his track-record. he would be nobody (in the football world at least.) without it as that’s where the players respect for him comes from. I think this is equally relevant to the business world.

    • June 8, 2010 9:43 pm

      Thank you for your comment and yYes, I agree and will add an update. In my view that is one of the key elements of building Trust, deliver results.

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