Leadership is not a popularity contest; it’s about our ability to bring out the best in people and there are a myriad of different ways to do that. In fact, there are probably as many permutations as there are people in leadership roles. The danger comes when we adopt an approach we like – that has worked for us in the past, but fail to recognise that we’ve lost our impact.
Take the current Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho, who adopts a ‘confrontational leadership’ style. This is his way of bringing out the best in players and he would no doubt argue that this approach has won him many trophies. Certainly, his record speaks for itself.
On the flip side, a less positive pattern has emerged; which is that in his third season in charge he tends to lose the dressing room. That was certainly the case at Real Madrid and then Chelsea; whilst his story at United has yet to play out.
So, what has changed? Why is a tactic that was working so well now causing him so many problems?
Mourinho’s methods were honed with the last generation of players, now nearing the end of their careers. Whereas, it would appear that the young players do not like him as much; and do not react well to being criticised, in public as well as in private. That’s something Sir Alex Ferguson never did. We all heard the ‘hair dryer’ rumours and could imagine how hard a task master he was. Nevertheless, if anyone questioned him about it he would always defend his players to the hilt in public.
Whilst Sir Alex seemed to know how to treat everybody as an individual – when to throw the hairdryer; when to put an arm round the shoulder; when to let somebody go and when to keep them in the fold; Mourinho seems to be a man who sticks with the tried and tested.
Both approaches can work, so long as the method fits with the person you’re dishing it out to; and that’s the trick that Mourinho appears to have missed.
Remember, in order to get the best out of individuals, we must recognise what motivates them. Everyone deals with confrontation differently and if openly criticising them leaves their confidence in tatters, that’s a job badly done.
Moreover, it’s vital that we keep up with the times; what works for one generation is unlikely to work for the next. Given that any sizeable organisation will recruit a mix of ages and personalities; with as many motivational drivers as there are employees; it’s vital you know who’s in your employ and what they are contributing. You may be the reason they’re not!