Alex Ferguson Leadership Style Essay
Sir Alex Ferguson is currently the manager of one of the most glorious football teams in the world, the British club Manchester United, and this for more than 25 years, the upmost managing period of all times. “In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked Manchester United the most valuable franchise in world sports, with an estimated worth of $1.8 billion — more than that of the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys” (Elliot, par 2). Since Sir Ferguson joined MU in 1986, the club won 36 distinguished trophies making him the most titled managers in the history of football.
The team also won a rare treble culminating in the European Cup year 1999.
Before joining the British club, Ferguson was an international football player in 1966; he played as a sticker at Glasgow Rangers, and was top scorer in Scotland. Later on, Ferguson started a progressively flourishing career as manager of the Scottish East Stirlingshire and St. Mirren clubs, before a successful period at Aberdeen. Throughout his career, Sir Alex Ferguson gained the praise and gratitude of a distinguished, successful manager thanks to his outstanding management skills.
He worthily gained numerous records as “Manager of the Year” in the history of the British Football. He is currently considered an expert manager whose leadership style is a benchmark from which novices learn. In fact his outstanding achievements had led managers from different areas to study the particularities of his management style.
What describes Great Leaders?
A Successful team’s leader is a visionary person who has the ability, the tenacity to lead the team members with resolve to achieve specific goals. However, great managers also know that the success of team management does not depend only on their personal distinguished management skills. The team performance is a combination of the qualitative involvement of the team members, the team’s preparation to face the challenges and confront the competition, and finally depends on the team leader’s experience. Great team leaders give an importance to clearly define the objectives to be achieved, and also state what is expected from the team members. They know how to motivate their team and how to encourage them toward achieving common objectives.
II. Management Style of Sir Alex Ferguson
The leadership theory that best describes sir Ferguson management style is the Path-Goal Theory.
The Path Goal theory assumes that: managers assist their teams in attaining challenging goals, and provide then with a continual support to ensure that the organizational goals are being achieved. To do so managers prove to have four distinguished leadership behaviors: Directive leader: the leader clearly states what is expected from the team, and gives specifics guidance on how to achieve them. Supportive leader: the leader has high consideration in assisting and helping his/her team even with personal problems, they are friendly and trustworthy. Participative leader: the leader is not a dictatorial who takes decisions on his/her own and imposes them. There is an involvement of the team in the decision making process. Achievement oriented leader: the leader sets challenging goals and expect the team members to perform at their best to successfully achieve these goals.
Let’s highlight the key aspects of Ferguson leadership style and progressively justify why the Path-Goal theory best describes his leadership style.
Key aspects of Ferguson leadership style:
Ambition: (A passion to be the best)
– Sir Alex Ferguson is an extremely ambitious person; his core ambition is to be the best, but most importantly sustain the success reached. He emphasizes this appetite for victory to his team and, sets challenging goals and encouraged him team members to give their best to achieve these goals. – He is also ready to take high risks if the expected results are worthy. For instance, he can change the structure on his team few days before a decisive match if he sees an relevance in doing so. This was the case during the last the European Cup. (white, par 15)
Motivation: (Manchester United against the world)
Alex Ferguson says: “You have got to find a way to affect people’s lives through motivation. But you have to have players who can be motivated. Some people can just melt [under the pressure].” (Qtd in High Beam Research, “Sir Alex Ferguson: manager of Manchester United”, par 8) To motivate his team, Sir Alex Ferguson chooses a siege mentality : He convinces his team players that everyone is against them, opposing the competitive teams, referees, the press, and the league. He assesses to his team that people want them to fail so they have to prove to themselves and to the world that they are not going to. Therefore, he makes the players fierce to win and makes that avidity an incentive to push them forward. (Sheingham, the daily Telegraph 22 may 1999) Ferguson said: “In most cases a cause is the best form of motivation: religion, your country,
Manchester United against the world. We use it; I use it, from time to time.” (Quoted in HighBeam Research, par 10). In a former period, Ferguson used to make his team fear him and by the same end motivate them to do their best. He is known to be aggressive and having a “short temper”. For instance, he was criticized for attacking the media while confronted with admitting a failure. Alex Ferguson said “I’ve got a temper if I need it, nothing wrong with losing your temper. If it’s for the right reasons.” (The Alex Ferguson Story) Given these two first aspect of his management style, we can discern that Ferguson is an “Achievement-oriented leader” who sets challenging goals for his team and motivate them fiercely to their best to attain these goals for the best of the team.
Discipline (Commitment to the Cause)
Ferguson is also known to be a severe disciplinarian. For instance, players from teams his used to manage recount how he would tail them after the trainings cession in order to be ensure that they didn’t travel out of the town. A bad day for them would be the day they cross his disciplinary lines. Through time, Ferguson’s team players get used to his explosive temper. It becomes a distinguished aspect of his motivating and disciplinary style. However, despite being strict, Ferguson ensures to his players that they can count on him whenever they are in need for help. For him, trust is very important and he keeps ensuring that players can rely on his loyalty. For example, he ensures to his team that even if he may be rude in his critics during the training session, he will never do so in public, what proves a behavior of a “supportive leader”. Valuing the Team over the Individual
In fact, Ferguson is leading a team whose members are wealthy players; nonetheless he has the intelligence to create a team spirit that emphasizes teamwork under a golden rule: no superstar rise above the club. Ferguson assessed that if “If you can believe this, your organization will outlast the people in it” Also Ferguson adopted a “squad system” that was disapproved by many players, but they all had to respect it otherwise they risk to be transferred to other clubs. This squad system gives the opportunity to young players to gain experience in participating in important matches (some of those young players contributed to the success of the treble of 1999) and gives senior players an opportunity to rest. This squad system also makes all the players equal by allowing a player to replace another without disturbing the balance of the team. Still, Ferguson monitors the performance of the young players (videos, training sessions) in daily basis to examine the effectiveness or non effectiveness of his squad system. Important: Sir Ferguson also bends to the rule: “Great leader are born not made” It is valuable to assess that since his young age,
Sir Alex Ferguson proved to have distinguished traits that made him a highly favorable person to be a great leader. For instance, before starting his professional football career, Sir Ferguson worked as an apprentice tool- maker in the Govan shipyards. In that period, “he became a trade union shop steward and led an unofficial walk-out over a pay dispute” (BBC,” Working-class Hero”. par 8). Therefore Ferguson management style is also described by the Trait Theory that identifies leaders as people who inherit qualities and capacities that make them more likely to be successful leaders. For instance, people who enter in contact with him assess that sir Ferguson always showed honesty and integrity, has a passion to the best and has a desire to lead: (he gave up on a foot player vocation and started a flourishing club managing career).
III. Are there other theories that Ferguson could use in managing his team? Successful managers may share the common description of great managers we discussed in the opening paragraph; however, they may follow different leadership approaches: the main leadership theories that Ferguson could have/or could use are: Early Leadership Theories:
Behavioral Theory: According to this theory, people learn to be good leaders through observation and learning. Under the behavioral theory, we can have different management styles: the main ones are: Authoritarian or autocratic theory: describes leaders who have a total control over decision making that they further impose on the team. This management style can be effective when the decisions involved are very risky and bears a small margin of errors. Therefore managers need to set rigid rules especially if the team members are judge to be unskilled or inexperienced with the type of work. Democratic or participative theory: describes leaders who involve the team members in decision makings and encourage teamwork and collaborations. As assessed before, Sir Alex Ferguson definitely is a democratic leader, but I chose the “path-goal” theory because it includes more aspects of his leadership style. Laissez faire theory: describes leaders who give the team members a certain freedom in taken individualistic decisions, but still oversee the respect of duties and the ongoing commitment to the organization’s goals.
Contingency Leadership Theories:
A- The Fiedler contingency Model :
This theory faced a major criticism because it is based on core statement that was judged unrealistic: the statement assesses that a person’s management style is fixed and would not change, therefore, if a manager fails to control a situation, he/she needs to be replaced by a person whose management style can control the situation, whereas it is managers that has and do change their management style to adapt to the changing situations in the organization. This theory counts on the match of 2 factors to determine the leaders’ ability to lead the team toward achieving high performances: 1- The specific leadership style of the managers assessed through a questionnaire (LCP least preferred coworker). based on 18 sets of combinations that describe the managers either positively (in this case the manager is relationship oriented ) or negatively ( task oriented) 2- Evaluation the situational factors that have or not an effective match with the leadership style based on three variables: leader-member relationship, task structure and finally the manager position power. Finally, based on the matching of these two factors; Fiedler states the favorableness of managers to highly perform within that team in a specific situation. Again, if the situation changes, it’s the manager who has to be replaced with a person who is more favorable to fits in the situation.
B- Situational Leadership Theory:
The SLT theory focuses on the team members’ readiness to follow the leader. By readiness, the co-founders of the theory (Hersy and Blanchard) mean their ability and willingness to collaborate for attaining the organizational goals. Based on the two factors, leaders determine to what extent they can give team members the freedom to make and implement their own decisions. Contemporary Leadership Theories:
Transactional theory: describe leaders who consider that team members are not equal in term of skills and capabilities. They reward them according to their performances and punish them if poorly performing (carrot and cane). Transformational theory: describes leaders who have the ability to inspire their team toward achieving outstanding goals. They show interest in their team, try to stimulate and motivate them to perform to their best or in better way.
IV. Why Ferguson chose the management styles he has adopted? Could he have do things differently ?
Sir Ferguson’s task is not without challenge. He is the manager of one of the most glorious football clubs in the world, has a club reputation to maintain, and has to ensure high goal achievements for a team composed of wealthy members, which needs intelligent leadership to ensure disciplinary ethics. Consequently Sir Ferguson is expected from all to demonstrate distinguished capabilities that allow him to achieve outstanding performances even in the most critical situations.
Here are some reasons that can justify why I considers that Sir Ferguson adopts a Path-Goal leadership style: 1- In the football game, team members are constantly living under a high pressure to perform at their best, especially, famous clubs alike Manchester united. Beside this constant stress, players may also individually face critical periods (such as the example of Cantona provides later) .Given this point, MU players need help to manage their stress and to take good decisions during critical situations. Sir Ferguson understands this and is exactly doing so. In fact, he knows how important it to provide support to his team and help them when needed. In this case he cannot for example adopt a laisser-faire leadership style because his team is in need of someone to reduce their stress and provide them with the right advice in the right time. For instance, two former MU players Cantona and David Beckham faced extensive media criticism, one was banned for hitting an opposing fan and the second one was sent off in a world cup match. However, despite the critical situation, “under Ferguson’s management, they went on to make influential contributions to their team, and redeem themselves.”(Jim White, par 9. High Search Beam)
2- Sir Alex Ferguson started his career as a club manager for more than 30 years ago. He acquires a rich experience and outstanding management skills internationally recognized. This makes the team members avid to learn from his experience and enrich theirs. Therefore because they are ready and willing to learn from their leader, a directive leadership behavior is very effective. In fact, team members know that he is well placed to give accurate directives on what goals to attain and how to achieve them. They trust him; don’t argue with his decision no matter how tough they are or whether these decision are suitable for them or not, such as the example of his squad system introduced before.
– Sir Alex Ferguson also believes that even if some of Manchester United team members are very wealthy, all players are equal, all players have to follow the same rules, and most of all keep working out no matter what level they attend. Therefore, he doesn’t want to rely on the transactional leadership that considers team members are no equal and differentiates them based on their performances. 4- Finally, Sir Ferguson has proved to be a very ambitious person, he has “the passion to be the best”(White, par 5) and this is reflected in his management style. In fact, he sets very challenging goals for his team and motivates his team members to perform to their best. Therefore, Sir Ferguson is well placed to be an Achievement oriented leader.
Cite this Alex Ferguson Leadership Style Essay
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