Three Lessons in Leadership from the Greatest Manager of All Time

BBC News: Sir Alex Ferguson to retire as Manchester United manager
BBC News: Sir Alex Ferguson to retire as Manchester United manager

Is it because he is Scottish (born in the same hospital as my little sister) that I experience this retirement with heightened emotion?

Was it his passion? Was it his longevity? Was it his knack to spot and nurture talent? Was it his constant drive to produce excellence? Was it his uncanny ability to form brilliant teams, and then re-create them all over again?

I think it’s a combination of all this and more. If Jose Mourinho is the ‘Special One’ then Alex Ferguson is quite simply extraordinary.

Sir Alex Ferguson was hired to do a job. And by gosh did he get on with it. The combination of extraordinary talent with the ability to work like a tiger produced stunning results.

We are all built to work at something and when someone else does something well, we should applaud it. Sure, he won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Your own particular passions and loyalties may well prevent you from ever warming to one of Glasgow’s most famous exports. But you cannot, however begrudgingly, look at the simple facts of his tenure without admiration.

13 Premier League trophies in 20 years (after a 20-year drought before his arrival) alone speaks enormously. But I think for me it was those nights in Europe that shone the brightest (’99 in Barcelona is forever etched in my memory). As Ferguson would take his men in red into battle, they would become our ambassadors of The Beautiful Game. The nation would get behind him and his men as they sought to plunder Europe for that glorious prize and bring it back to the home of football.

I believe that Sir Alex Ferguson will go down as the greatest manager the greatest game has ever known.

Three Things to Lean from Sir Alex’s Reign

1. Lift Your Expectations: Dream Big

How many people get what they want and then quit or run out of steam? Alex Ferguson’s winning record is incredible because he kept on winning. The first Premier League trophy in ’93 was remarkable. Doing it again the year after, and then a further 11 times speaks of a hunger much deeper and a vision much greater than many others possess.

– Make sure your vision won’t cripple you in the long run because you’ve dreamt too small.

2. Get A Great Support Team

Ferguson knew how to work with those around him and get the best out of his team. But his greatest collaboration came from a deeper vein.

“My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.”

The stability offered through relationships can provide the support needed to keep on going, and going, and going.

– Don’t sell out your relationships in the pursuit of your vision. Invest in those around you as you reach for your goals. In the end the structure you build will only be as strong as the relational-foundations you build it on.

3. Know When To Quit

The rumours surrounding Sir Alex’s retirement weren’t new. Many of us thought, “We’ve been here before.” Ferguson could have walked away on many occasions prior to this one, highly decorated and incredibly successful. But there was more to come. Even after overcoming Liverpool’s haul of 18 league titles, still the persistent Scot kept on going.

Don’t quit simply because you think you’ve achieved it all. What more can you offer if you keep on going?

– If you make your goals your master you will die chasing them or they will crush you when you achieve them. But when you find meaning outside of your work and you will be released to work to all of your potential.