Leadership Lessons From Pep Guardiola

Leadership Lessons From Pep Guardiola

Leadership Lessons From Pep Guardiola

By Mark Wager

The career of Pep Guardiola is a catalogue of success both as a player and as a coach. While he was a player, Pep Guardiola played forty seven times for Spain and won seventeen trophies including the European Cup and six national championships with FC Barcelona. When he became a coach the trophies continued with three more Spanish league titles, again with Barcelona and two champions league trophies among his collection of seventeen trophies gained as a coach. Today Pep Guardiola is widely considered to be the best coach in the world of football.

Pep Guardiola has always been a leader, but he is a rarity in the fact that he is a leader and a coach. I deal with many leaders across a range of industries and they are great leaders but poor coaches because to be a great leader you need to know what leadership is yet in order to be a great coach you need to understand leadership. You can be what you know but you can only teach what you understand and Pep Guardiola truly understands leadership which is why he has had so much success both as a player and more so as a coach, and you can argue that his leadership career has only just started because despite all his success he is still only forty five years old.

Let's explore the leadership philosophy that Pep Guardiola has implemented in order to be successful.

Define the essence of the team
Organisations are now becoming more aware of the need to identify and promote the fundamental reason for the organisations existence or the "why" yet Pep Guardiola took this a step further by taking a particular belief system and aligning it to the mission objective. Pep Guardiola didn't just get his players to buy into the mission but into a particular way of playing. Barcelona have always had a reputation for playing with flair. The fans winning is not enough, you have to win with style. When Pep Guardiola took over, the team became more disciplined with a much greater emphasis on possession football a style that became known as Tiki-taka.

Establish an objective greater than victory
The most successful teams in all sports create a legacy that is greater than each individual victory. The All Blacks Rugby team is a perfect example and so is Pep Guardiola's work at Barcelona and more recently Bayern Munich. No matter the victory in the pitch he never lets the players forget that they are part of a legacy that is much greater than they are. This helps manage the ego of the individuals and further motivates the team because they realise that being the best is not enough, what matters is leaving a legacy.

"Gentleman, if you lose today you will continue to be the best in the world, but if you win today you will be eternal" - Pep Guardiola

It's all about the culture
When Pep Guardiola was given the coaching role at Barcelona he had just finished a successful season with the Barcelona B team. His fist decision as first team coach was to say that several first team players including its two main stars Ronaldinho and Deco had no future at the club. Many of the stars moved on and several young players from the successful B team moved up. Pep Guardiola realises that in order for a team to be successful it needs to have a winning culture, a brotherhood of team members that are all winning to put the needs of the team ahead of the desires of the individual and anyone not wanting to buy into the culture have no future with that team.

Understand the team members
Every effective leader knows that you have to have strong relationships with each and every member of the team yet few understand how to establish relationships with very different people. Pep Guardiola is known for understanding the ambitions and personality of each player and adapts his communication accordingly. Lionel Messi, the world's best player was called up by Argentina to play at the Olympics much to the disappointment of FC Barcelona who didn't want to risk their best player getting injured. Pep went against the wishes of the club and supported Messi playing at the Olympics because he knew how important this was to Messi and the loyalty he would receive in return from the player.

Don't criticise, instead add value.
When things are not going well it's difficult not to allow your emotions to overtake you and influence your decision making. Successful leaders know that you can't lose sight of the objective. When things go bad your focus needs to remain on want needs to happen to correct performance and the diagnosis of how and why the situation happened and what can happen later. When asked about this kind of situation Pep Guardiola replied “We’d never start telling them off. If the game’s going badly you only earn credibility by correcting what they’re doing rather than shouting about it.”

Successful leadership is the same regardless of nationality or industry. Anyone who wants to become a quality leader can't ignore the lessons of leaders like Pep Guardiola who have achieved extraordinary levels of success. By defining the essence of the team, creating an objective greater than victory, establishing a winning culture and understanding each member's personal ambitions you to can lead a successful team.


Ronin Philosophy

Posted: Wednesday 3 February 2016

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