Alex Ferguson’s Leadership Style Case Study
Alexander Chapman Ferguson, known as Alex Ferguson, was born in 1941, in Govan Glasgow Scotland. As a teenager he was working as a tool’s apprentice in his father shipyard then in his 19, he became a labor union activist and an active member of the “Labor Party”. As far as Ferguson’s “the football player” career is concerned, actually, he did not achieve a successful career. In fact, as a player Ferguson started with a small local football team the “Queens Park and St Johnston” club.
Afterward, he got the chance to join the “Glasgow Ranger” club, yet this union did not last since he resigned after being responsible for the defeat of his team against its fierce rival the “Glasgow Celtic” club. So determined, Alex Ferguson joined the “East Stirling” football club but this time as a manager rather than as a player. His first management period lasted for three seasons and then was recruited by the Scottish football team “Aberdeen”. With limited resources, Ferguson achieved the unthinkable, he won with his club the “European Winners’ Cup” during the 1982-3 season.
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This achievement with “Aberdeen” was a milestone in his career and made him “THE” coach that many big names in the European football scene like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal, and Tottenham, wanted to engage him. Ultimately, Ferguson chose to join Manchester United (MU). During his reign, Manchester United advanced from an ordinary local team to a top-class national team. Together they won all the British football trophies: nine Premiership League titles, five FA cups, two League cups, and seven Community Shield cups (Antony Gumi).
Furthermore, Alex was successful at the European level as well, he won a lot contests: the UEFA Champions League Cup, the Winner’s Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup. On the 19 December, 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson became Manchester United’s longest manager in the history of the club when he surpassed Sir Matt Busby’s record of 24 years one month and 14 days in charge of the club (Mark Ogden, 2010). Indeed, Ferguson was so efficacious in what he has been doing that the BBC quoted him as showing no intention of retiring: “… why should I give up?
I’m going to continue doing it and I don’t know how long I’ll go on for, but I’m really enjoying it” (Alex Ferguson). Defining leadership Barrow (1977) defined leadership as “the behavioral process of influencing individuals and groups towards set goals” (p. 232). This definition evokes many key leadership components such as behavioural change, team relationship, goal and vision. Indeed a successful leader should be a target-oriented person and should have a vision as well. Moreover, he should build a strong relationship with his teammates in order to provoke a behavioural change and reach the set target.
In addition, leaders have to make sure that their leadership strategy is a two-way process in the sense that not only the organization’s goals have to be achieved but also the teams’ needs have to be met. In fact, according to Weinberg and Gould (2003), leaders typically have two functions: the first one is to ensure that the demands of the organization are effectively satisfied by the group and this latter is meeting the organization targets and the second one is to ensure that the needs of the group members are satisfied.
Leadership, also, has been defined as “the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically toward the achievement of group goals” (Weihrich and Koontz, 2005). This latter definition induces the notion of influence that can be achieved through different actions for instance through manipulation, through coercion or through persuasion. In addition, in order for the leadership to be successful it requires the respect of the underlying hierarchy between the influencer and the follower (Lee Crust and Ian Lawrence, 2006). I want you to look at the various leadership theories and identify the ones that best describe Ferguson’s style. Why do you think this? What in your reading have you been able to find that supports your view? Sir Alex Ferguson has been using the charismatic leadership style. In order to understand, Alex Ferguson style we have to start by defining the “charismatic leadership” style as well as the charismatic personality treats.
Charismatic leadership is defined as a “social influence process that involves the formulation and articulation of an evocative vision, provides inspiration to motivate collective action … and displays unconventional and personal risk-taking behavior” (Sosik, Dinger, 2007). As far as the personality treats as concerned, charismatic leaders are most of the time “being dominant, having a strong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and having a strong sense of one’s wn moral values” (Northouse, 2004). Concerning Alex Ferguson style, he has been using encouragement and enthusiasm as motivation methods. In fact, Ferguson has been known as the greatest motivator in the modern football times. To illustrate his cheerleading feature, in 1999, during the European Cup final, he indicated to his team “at the end of this game, the European cup will be only three feet away from you and you will not be able to touch it if we lose” (Alex Ferguson, 1999).
Furthermore, as a leader he has been very demanding and always expecting a 100% from his players since he believes that hard-work is the key of success: “I think it is important to work and I’m entitled to work, some people do not work but I continue working” (Alex Ferguson). In addition, Ferguson developed the ability of assessing his team players’ qualities as well as of the men around him which was really helpful feature allowing him to assign the right person in the place (BBC News, July, 2001).
Throughout his career, Alex Ferguson has been creating the right atmosphere for his team players in order to put them in “‘the right frame of mind” using all the motivational and psychological approaches. He has been loyal to his team and defended his team players’ actions. In fact, by his actions, Ferguson cemented the team-spirit around him, created mutual respects and as a result the team reciprocated his loyalty over time (Jurgen Oschadleus, October, 2011).
Alex Ferguson has been insisting on the importance of building trust and fidelity among his followers as he mentioned in his autobiography “Managing my Life” “the best teams standout because they are teams; because the individual members have been so integrated that the team functions with a single spirit. There is a constant flow of mutual support among the players, enabling them to feed off strengths and compensate for weaknesses. They depend on one another, trust one another” (p. 25). He, also, added in his autobiography “a manager should engender that sense of unity.
He should create a bond among his players, and between him and them that raises performance to heights that were unimaginable when they started out as disparate individuals”. On the other hand, even though Alex Ferguson has been using positivism and enthusiasm in his management approach, he tried to balance it with realism as he said a “team talk should always contain a healthy dose of realism, should encourage your men to recognize their strengths, and work to exploit them” (Alex ferguson , Managing my life). Are there other theories that Ferguson could use in managing his team? Alex Ferguson could use the “Transformational Leadership Style” to manage his team because this latter style is an enduring process by which “leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation” (Burns, p. 20). Transformational leaders can also achieve a high level of performance by stimulating a creative ways of thinking and transforming the values and the ambitions of the followers.
In fact, the transformational leadership theory was inspired by Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Human Needs in the sense that a high level of authenticity, self-esteem and self-actualization should be part of a transformational leader. Also, this style of leadership leads to a mutual stimulation in the manager-follower relationship and provides junior staff with the support to develop leadership skills (Burns, 1978). By working hard a transformational leader and his followers could develop their skills by using their own decisions and eventually taking greater responsibility (Den Hartog, Van Muijen and Koopman, 1997).
Transformational leadership goes beyond the attempts of the leaders who seek to satisfy the current needs of the followers through transactions or exchanges process (Yammarino and Dubinsky, 1994), it increases the self confidence of followers and moved them gradually from the preoccupation for existence and self-fulfillment to the preoccupation of growth and the group achievements (Nuttawuth Muenjohn). Furthermore, it has been proven that transformational leadership leads to higher level of performance and allow the employee and the organization to achieve their goals (Bass 1985).
With this leadership style we have employees’ effectiveness, customer satisfaction which results on transforming the traditional leadership’s relationship dynamic converting followers into leaders and may convert leaders into moral agents? (Burns 1978 p. 4) (Dvir et al 2002, Helland and Sandal 2003). * Why do you think he chose the management style that he has adopted? Alex Ferguson has been adopting the charismatic leadership style because of his personality treats.
In fact, thought out his long experience, Alex developed a charismatic personality that is an important compound of the charismatic leadership style. Charismatic leaders has been defined as “being dominant, having a strong desire to influence others, being self-confident, and having a strong sense of one’s own moral values” (Northouse, 2004). Indeed, Alex Ferguson has most of those charismatic personality treats in the sense that he is self-confident; he has ability to influence his followers and motivate them as well as give them inspiration and support in order to achieve success.
As it was mentioned by one of his players for him “every game looks like it is his first. He is so excited. So enthusiastic. He wants to win so much” (Javier Hernandez, 2011). Also, Ferguson believes that one of the most important priorities of a leader is to know his own people as he stated “it is only when you focus on one or two players at a time that you get a real insight into them,” (Alex Ferguson). In fact, Alex does not stop on only knowing his players but instead he goes beyond that by taken care of them.
Javier Hernandez, one of his players, said “every day he will ask me how I am feeling; whether I am OK and whether I need anything” (Javier Hernandez). He treats each player as they were family members, even with a player like David Beckham or Jaap Stam. Another management strategy that Alex has been implementing with his players has been the injection of his beliefs and personality treats in the players’ mindset. For instance, the “hate-of-losing” and “desire-of-winning”, this way his team will fight until the last second to win and can make a difference at any time.
Here are some of the motivating sentences that he has been using “you will only be watching the enemy pick up the trophy and celebrate triumph that supposed to be yours; you cannot get closer to the trophy since losers don’t deserve that trophy” (Alex Ferguson). Indeed, for some Analysts, Alex was considered the best motivator and players’ psychiatrist in the European football (Antony Gumi). Another leadership treat that helped Alex Ferguson is the fact of being calm and a self-confident person. McClair stated that Alex “great strength is his single-mindedness”.
He also added that “he has the ability to make decisions and stick to them. He got real self-belief that what he is doing is right and his record suggests he usually is” (McClair). Moreover, Alex has been described as being calm person since most of the time when his opponents attack him, he prefers to give them the silent treatment and then demonstrates that he was right about his decisions. For example, when Alex decided to insert the brilliant MU junior players into the senior team, his adversary, Alan Hansen, stated, “you will never win anything with kids” (Alan Hansen).
Instead of responding to Alan’s comment, he carries on his plan and proved that he is a man of vision when his junior players were ranked as the best quality players (Antony Gumi). * Could he have improved his team’s performance by doing things differently? Justify your answer. Sir Alex Ferguson could not have improved his team performance by following another leadership style. Alex style of leadership especially control has been the drivers to the success. In fact, I think that the best leadership style as far as the football game is concerned is the charismatic leadership.
Football is an extrovert sport and requires extrovert leadership (Great Leadership in Individual and Team Sports, 2012). In football, the leader do not have enough time to make all the player participating in the decision making process because the situations change quickly, and the leader should take control as well as make good decisions for the team otherwise the team performance will be impacted. Alex Ferguson pointed out that “control is everything in management … the only thing that gives you control is time, and the only thing that buys you time is success” (The Financial Times, 1999, p. 1). To illustrate this control, sometimes when the words are not enough, the legend associates gestures and in some cases it is to approve some sort of authority over them. Alex Ferguson think that when his lose his temper it is for the right reason as he said: “I think it was Jock Stein who told me there’s nothing wrong with losing your temper for the right reasons – and I think 70 to 80 per cent of the time I’ve done it for the right reasons. Sometimes it would be premeditated to get my point across, to keep the players’ feet on the ground, but I’m going back to 15 years ago.
I’m a pussycat now – I’m too old to lose my temper. ”(Alex Ferguson). For Ferguson control is the key of success because he couldn’t achieve all his successes without losing his temper and made some people upset as Beckham mentioned “the fear of getting the hairdryer was the reason why we all played so well, he said. He was a manager you wanted to do well for. It is not enough just to be a great player when you want to play for him. He puts you in the side because he has confidence in you as a player and because you have character. (David Beckham, 2011). As a manger he got everything from the team “that’s what is great about him. He has got the staying power that not many people have” (Beckham David, 2011). On the other hand, I think that the control approach needs humility and resilience as well rather than arrogance and stubbornness. In fact, this is the sole point that Ferguson should have applied in the case of the conflict that opposed him with Beckham. In fact, Ferguson had a conflict with Beckham and refused to apologise even though he was wrong.
This behaviour led Beckham to sign for Real Madrid even though he liked MU. In his biography, “Beckham: My Side”, he justifies his decision and regretting the absence of apologies from his former mentor (David Beckham, Beckham my side). Conclusion Alex Ferguson has been making a major impact not only on the British football but also on the European football as well. In 2001, he won the “Lifetime Achievement Award” as the confirmation of his role as a game changer. One of the major reasons for his successes as a head coach is his long term vision embodied though his management style.
Also, his personality and charisma are part of his management success. Without neglecting other factors such as his commitment to excellence, hard work and discipline that altogether contributed to his successes. Alex has been managing his team through motivation, loyalty and control. He has been aware not only of the core competencies (strengths) of his players but also their limitations and has been following a strategy that focuses on the short term tangible results while managing and working on the long term gaps.
Also, Ferguson had the ability to take risks in order to keep the club performing more successfully. He has been considering integrity, ethical behavior and excellence as pillars since according to Ferguson “the team mirrors its manager because they reflect a lot of what you are in your life and what you believe in and that is a very important job. ” (The Alex Ferguson Story, Managing my life). References * “Article: Leadership Succession and Organizational Performance:Football Coaches and Organizational Issues” by Soebbing et al.
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