Management at any level is a skilled position but there seems to be very little that can be compared to football management.
It is said that today's game is typified by managers who are never more than 180 minutes away from getting sacked, youth players made to grow up far too quickly, players intoxicated by money over club and country loyalty, more issues than one plaguing a game turned billion-dollar business.
But that aside there is a whole lot we can take from the game particularly from some of the astute leaders we have been fortunate to encounter or at least learn from though observation.
In May 2000, I found myself extremely fortunate to be interacting with Sir Bobby Robson, the former England boss who was on tour to Trinidad with Newcastle United. I found him to be simple and easy going but very business-like. I recall sharing a few rounds with him at the famous Pelican Inn the night following his club’s 1-0 win over a PFL All Star team at the Hasely Crawford Stadium (Port-of-Spain). Many stories were told and talks were underway for him to take Dennis Lawrence on trial at Newcastle. Sir Bobby was a true gentleman and always up for a good chat.
That night at my age of 19, he taught me how and why some of the biggest deals are struck around a table of beverages. He assured us that Lawrence would get the opportunity and I was excited to be hearing that the T&T defender would be heading off. Later that month, the ex-Defence Force man did in fact make his way to the club for the trial, later being signed by Wrexham following work permit delays.
Former England player Paul Parker explained that there are several qualities of a leader that Sir Bobby possessed that we could all learn from. Humanity – above all else Sir Bobby was, in business speak, an authentic leader. What you saw is what you got. He was not trying to be someone he was not. He was well aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He had a high degree of emotional intelligence and humility.
These two elements are traits many people really appreciated and learned from. For Sir Bobby it was a natural, endearing part of what made him not just good but great. The other qualities of the ex-Barcelona boss were a winning mentality, honesty, being (quietly) commanding, loyalty and love, not a word that is used in business or within football management and dressing rooms but extremely important.
Parker stressed, and I agree perhaps we should use the word more. It is about passion, energy, pride, commitment and more. Perfect for winning teams and a winning mentality, on the pitch and in the boardroom.
These are some traits that we should all try to emulate or at least recognise in persons we come into interaction with. I have witnessed it in many a manager or head coach on local soil. I recall Bruce Aanensen, Neville Chance, when he returned for the 2002 qualifiers as manager, George Joseph, I've heard stories from past players about Ollie (Oliver) Camps as a manager and Gally Cummings, Christopher Gouveia who managed the Under-17s to the 2007 youth FIFA World Cup, Leo Beenhakker, Stephen Hart, Anton Corneal, Bertille St Clair and the list goes on.
These qualities can be delivered to your leadership and management teams, pulling on experiences and applying learnings directly to your business context, enabling self-reflection, positive change and action.
It is said that Robson approached the role of leader with a unique blend of jovial insight and an extraordinary passion to learn and win. The greats in the game teach lessons long after they have gone. When he said: “People want success. It’s like coffee, they want instant," it not only captured his wit and wisdom, but spoke to the larger context of the world’s game. Robson’s tenure as England manager – his most famous – was nothing short of a daily struggle but he persevered with fire and a smile. He later said: “You know, nobody wins everything on his own."
It speaks volumes of the man when the likes of Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola, Brazil's Ronaldo, and countless others say Robson was one of the biggest inspirations in their careers during the Netflix documentary "More than a Manager". Our own Russell Latapy played under him and Mourinho at Porto between 94-96.
Robson fought cancer five times over a 15-year span. In footballing terms, Bobby Robson beat cancer 4-1 before his season was over in July 2009 due to lung cancer at age 76
Like him, we all want good leadership from others or we, ourselves, want to be strong leaders and managers. Here's my tip. Be more than a manager!
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He is a former FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and has served as a CONCACAF Competitions Media Officer for over ten years. The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation.