Leadership and Succession


The day I met Jürgen Klopp,

walking down an empty side street in Palma.…..

I have always wanted to say that line out loud. I met Jürgen Klopp in Palma. There I said it again! And he is just as charming in real life as he is in interviews on TV and by all accounts as a manager.

I am bordering on obsessed about what makes a brilliant manager, coach or leader in sport and business and have spent most of my life collecting the clues for success and sharing them with CEOs and leaders.

Could you imagine though what would happen if Jürgen was asked to be a player-manager? Madness I know! Yet that’s the role a very high number of CEOs, MDs and Senior leaders of Irish companies expect to play.

It is extremely difficult to step back, look at the big picture, stay balanced regardless of results and also be in the thick of the day to day action. Being down in the weeds can be the most stressful place for a leader-coach to be, as it reinforces their view that they are the only ones that can fix things. Furthermore, it sends a message to their succession team that they are not trusted to do the job. Both of these tendencies are detrimental to achieving big, ambitious goals.

The company will never meet its full potential or reach bigger, more ambitious goals, if their leader is a player-manager. Being a player-manager requires moving between two different mindsets and results in a type of split personality.

Being able to lead like Jürgen Klopp seems to be a hugely satisfying and inspirational job, but I guess he had to be brave enough to let go of the minutiae of the day job, to keep his own mindset clear, keep his ambitions for his team and players front and centre, and keep his eye on the main prize.

When he goes on his leadership-coach speaking tour, (BTW, he didn’t tell me he is doing that; I am just wishing he does), he would probably put that at the top of his list.

It is not possible to be both a brilliant player-manager and a brilliant leader-coach at the same time. So please pick one! Hopefully, you choose to be leader-coach and step out of your comfort zone of executing to learn and excel in that role. This is the new approach needed for our more democratic environment where collaboration wins over simply giving instructions and expecting talented people to follow them.

✉ DM me to continue the debate and share your thoughts.

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clockwork men in suits with briefcases, www.cathywinston.ie