Leadership in Football – Can it Enhance creativity?

Sir Alex Ferguson Leadership

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Sport is a great example to explain how different leadership styles can enhance creativity, individually or in teams. I am going to discuss leadership styles in football and apply them to managers. For example, football teams have one up to four leaders depending on the type of management style of the manager.


Some may argue in a successful team that every team member is a leader on the field however if everyone’s a leader who do you follow? Or look to for motivation? Having too many leaders can cause confusion and conflict. Generally, in a football team, a manager will is a leader, the captain, a leader in defence and a leader in midfield (bearing in mind one of these players might be the captain).


Football teams are very much like organisations, they will have a main leader, then multiple leaders n different departments. Some departments in the organisation will be routine and not requre much creativity to achieve goals, then other departments will requre continuous innovating thinking..


Sir Alex Ferguson’s Leadership

Transformational leadership is a process that changes and transforms people. It is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and longterm goals. (Northouse, 2016). Sir Alex Ferguson a former Manchester United manager showed these attributes. A current football manager that I’d say uses this type of leadership style is Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.


Sticking with Sir Alex Ferguson for now, he had the utmost authority within and made that clear when he stated: “no player is bigger than the club”. Meaning he doesn’t care how good, popular or important you are if you’re negatively affecting the team, you will be out the door. Ferguson was known for guiding and protecting his players throughout their youth development and their careers.

Can leadership style in football enhance creativity? Discussing Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Pep Guardiola Click To Tweet

Here are some quotes by previous Manchester United players who have played for Sir Alex, highlighting his leadership style:

“He’s a fantastic person. A human person. He taught me many things. He’s like a farther in football” (Cristiano Ronaldo)


“As a manager, he was the best but his man-management was something which a lot of other managers would struggle to match. He knew how to speak to players, how to get a reaction. He’s the only manager that could leave someone out and make them feel good about it -he was incredible.” (Wayne Rooney)


” Am truly honored to have been guided by the greatest manager n football and to have had that career that had under him. Without him, I would never have achieved what I have done.” (David Beckham)


Sir Alex Ferguson considered players’ emotions if he felt players were not in the right mind frame to go and perform he would withdraw them from the team. Ferguson was a man of values that he embedded into the team, football was not only about winning matches to him but, was also about the fans, different cultures coming together learning, enjoying the craft whilst being professional.

Sir Alex Ferguson at training ground

Ferguson’s long-term goal was to make Manchester United into a fortress and Sir Alex Ferguson’s leadership achieved exactly that. Sir Alex enhanced creativity by encouraging self-confidence on the pitch allowing players to express themselves but in the right areas at the right times.


This method meant that Manchester United could often exploit their opposition and find creative solutions for teams that solely set up just to stop them. For example n a workplace environment that requires creativity, this would be similar to when the manager focuses on the importance of getting the best out of their employees by allowing them to be creative and innovative because this is what they believe provides the best results and how future targets will be achieved.


Can leadership style in football enhance creativity? Discussing Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Pep Guardiola Click To Tweet


Jose Mourinho’s Leadership

Authentic leadership is based around authority, generally authentic leaders are strict, honest, and have a controlled approach. These types of leaders create a professional relationship with their peers. Being direct is how they communicate, it creates an atmosphere that is comfortable to them and what they believe will achieve their goals.


Authoritarian leaders like to closely supervise and be Jose mourinho, drogba and terry

reassured that the job s getting done correctly and to a high standard. Tottenham Hotspur manager, Jose Mourinho, and previously the manager of Porto, Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Inter Milan show these traits.


Jose Mourinho once said, “They have to work hard playing for me, but they don’t have to be in love with me.” (Soccerlens, 2007). This shows his honesty and that all he requires is a strong professional relationship to achieve his objectives. As stated before, authentic leaders tend to control and monitor but creativity requires innovative thinking, which brings me to my next point…


While being a very successful manager, Jose Mourinho’s leadership & style of play has often been criticised as boring and outdated and been known to park-the-bus (very defensive) even though he has quality creative players at his disposal.


However, Mourinho’s ability to turn his opponents’ strengths into weaknesses shouldn’t be overlooked. Saying that, this could be Jose’s unique style of enhancing creativity, it may not be easy on the eye for spectators but the way he and his players have continuously stopped opponents and the success with the teams he’s managed proves that there’s some creative thinking behind his methods.

Can leadership style in football enhance creativity? Discussing Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Pep Guardiola Click To Tweet

What players said about Jose Mourinho:

“Mourinho is 100% percent competitive and wants to win. He squeezes out what he doesn’t like to get what he wants. At Real Madrid, there were phases in the game when we were not dominant, but we were in control.” (Xavi Alsonso)


“Mourinho is more chest-out come and get me if you want. He likes a bit of confrontation and a bit of discussion – and a heated discussion at that.” (Eidur Gudjohnsen)


“When I met Mourinho,  was still very young, but mentally and tactically, he worked on me. He was really demanding; you could not take a step below your level.”


Pep Guardiola’s Leadership

Adaptive leadership “is about how leaders encourage people to adapt. Face their problems, challenges, and changes” (Northouse, 2016). Pep Guardiola’s Leadership has these traits, the manager moved from Barcelona who played n a very technical way, which would be very hard to imitate no matter which team he managed next.


When Pep Guardiola first took over at Manchester City he encouraged his new team to adapt and play his style of play, passing out from the back, creating triangles all over the pitch so that the man in possession always has more than one short Pep guardiola coaching

pass option, and retrieving the ball back as quick a possible when out of possession.


The players were finding it hard to adapt to the new style some, were simply not gifted technically enough and some didn’t have the football intelligence which saw Pep get rid of a lot of players and dive into the transfer market. It’s not only the player that has struggled to adapt Pep Guardiola did too, however, (Arjyozz, 2015) said, “Intelligence is often expressed in how well you adapt to where you are, to your circumstances.


He is very, very intelligent. He is a perfectionist, obsessive: he keeps going until he gets it right, no matter what he’s doing”. Pep Guardiola’s leadership style will enhance creativity because once he gets his team’s playing to the standard he wants, it creates relationships in every position on the field, players have been described as playing telepathic football.


What players said about Pep Guardiola:

“He’s intense and detailed. Everybody knows what they have to do with the ball and without the ball. I never had a manager so detailed in every moment and aspect of the game, and saying what to do. Some trainers just say whatever, ‘just play’. (Kevin De Bruyne)


“He is faithful to his ideas and he can convince his players to change their philosophy of direct play by playing more elaborate football.” (Pedro)


“Pep doesn’t just give you orders, he also explains why. That makes you a better footballer because you learn the reasoning behind his instructions.” (Gerard Pique)

Can leadership style in football enhance creativity? Discussing Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Pep Guardiola Click To Tweet


Leadership styles will be more effective depending on the organisations they are being used in. This is the reason leadership in football has been used as an example because, although the leadership style is showcased at different clubs they are similar organisations. It is evident that leadership in football can enhance creativity.


everyone has their individual differences. Therefore, each leadership in football will have its positives and negatives affecting each follower in a different way. While I have chosen these managers to a certain leadership style this doesn’t mean they’re solely using that specific style. You might learn that each of these managers has traits in all three styles however, I have assigned them from the main traits that I see and applied them to where I see fits.


Some leadership styles require creativity from the leaders then it’s imposed onto the players, other styles give the responsibility of creativity to the players where terms like free role and drifting are used a lot more now. Ultimately, all the styles are what the leader thinks will be effective and efficient to reach their desired goals.


There is no right or wrong leadership style however, transformational leadership is what I think is the best personally. This style gets the best out of the resources available and players who are seen as average players, play like great players through the motivation and morale created by the leader.


Two quotes I love about leadership in organisations:

“The single biggest way to impact an organisation is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organisation that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders, and continually develops them.” (John Maxwell)


“Leaders instill in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.” (Unknown)


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14 thoughts on “Leadership in Football – Can it Enhance creativity?

  1. Leadership and football are two different things but they need leadership quality in football. Looking at how you’ve taken it in respect to coaches, it’s really a vital part because being a coach is not easy and you have to be a leader to be able to pull that off. I really like how you’ve addressed this issue and thanks for sharing 

  2. I think leadership is important in anything and like in everysport including football, it helps to bring out the best out of the other players too. It is important to have good leadership qualities in the coach and also in the captain of the team. This very unlikely post is very well written. Nice work!

  3. This is quite an informative article for everyone, whether they are involved in sports or not. I’ve heard about how sports can build character and leadership for everyone involved and I’ve seen the results, even in younger children. The qualities that are built are incredible, in my experience.

    Thanks for bringing up a very essential topic. It may be even more critical today than ever before. I’ll be sharing!

  4. A very good take and the juxtaposition of various leaders and the 4 philosophies that stands them out from all other people. In football, having an idea and a philosophy that you build your team on can always tell on the performance output they put forward towards attaining success. What you shared here is really good and I fancy it all here. Thank you for the details

  5. Hello Kurtes,

    Football is a very wonderful game and many things can determine the way the game goes and leadership quality is part of it. As a coach, you’ll need to be a leader for your team to believe in you. Creativity comes in when you understand your team ad that would help you grow better as a team. I like Sir Alex Ferguson’s style alot

  6. Sports is something well known to me as I grew up in a family with my father being a coach! Sports taught me and my brother sportsmanship, leadership, team spirit, cooperation, team work and the will to success and not give up. Good article and thanks for sharing your insight. 

  7. I think that leadership is. Avery important wuity for everyone who is into football should have because it will be one of the things that can carry the team. Whenever a team has a good leader, the team is usually able to go places and win many throphy as well so yes you are correct.

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