Leadership lessons from football


“Our brand is the experience beneficiaries [customers] have when they partner with us.” Fredrick Gori, Kenya Red Cross.

Football, or soccer, is a beautiful game. Yes it is. The world’s most popular sport provides a valuable ‘high’ for its most ardent supporters. One minute you will be drop-dead ecstatic and crest-fallen the very next. It is a roller-coaster experience.

Such was my experience last Sunday as I watched my favorite team spin dribbles past their opponents.  The pundits had it that the game was a clear win for the ‘Red Devils’, as Manchester United are fondly called. Some had written off Norwich City and goals were expected to flow, into the Norwich goal that is.

At 37, veteran Paul Scholes did just that on the  7th minute. The rout had began, the ecstasy… What followed was good football but no goals. Then the crest-fallen 83rd minute checked in. A touch, a squirm and a kick and Norwich equalized! The ensuing bedlam from the home fans was deafening. A giant had fallen.

The ‘Devils’ responded with wave after wave of attack, denied each time by a resolute Norwich City defense. All seemed lost until Ryan Giggs’ exquisitely side-footed the ball into the goal from brilliant lobe into the penalty area. Goal! At the 90th minute and on his 900th game for the ‘Devils’, aged 38 years.

In this game were four valuable lessons on leadership.

To be a leader, strive to remain an innovator-at-heart [TweetMe]. Scholes is renown for his thunderous shots from outside the 18-yard box. In this case, he deftly danced around the defenders, created some space for himself inside the penalty box and coolly slotted in a header from about 6 yards. A leader always finds a way to deliver the desired outcome even when obvious avenues are closed.

Get close to your opposition. Leadership is ensuring that you understand your competition [TweetMe]. Sometimes you will have to get uncomfortably close in order to move ahead, as Scholes adeptness displayed. In 1997, Microsoft invested US$150 million in Apple, including developing future versions of MS Office and other development tools for the Mac. It was understood that this was part of working out a long-standing dispute. The argument was that Microsoft’s operating system infringed some of Apple’s patents. The rest is history…

A foe, is a foe, and will remain a foe. As a leader, never underestimate your competition. No matter how weak a scrawny dog may look, it still has teeth, and can bite! Out of the blues, Norwich managed to outsmart the ‘Devils’ defense, score, and hold onto the draw until the very last minute of the game. Your competition will always strive to get a feather off your cap.

Finally, do not forget to win while you are at it. Great leadership is keeping at it regardless of the obstacles placed in your path [TweetMe]. The ‘Devils’ knew that a draw was not an option. If they were to remain leaders, they had to soldier on. And Giggs made sure of it, despite being the oldest man on the pitch, he got the winner. Leaders do not give up, they give hope.

“The actions of men are best interpreters of their thoughts.” John Locke

photo credit: Lordcolus via photopin cc


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  1. #1 by VizwerxGroup (@VizwerxGroup) on July 31, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    “Leaders do not give up. They give hope.” Great parting words, Kimunya. I love sports metaphors because I find them relatable. I enjoyed yours. I’ve gotten comments before when I’ve used sports metaphors that they are too limiting; but, I think they open your mind up to thinking about other things you may have learned from watching or participating in your favorite sport. Thanks for the post!

    • #2 by KimunyaMugo on August 1, 2013 - 7:55 am

      Absolutely! The lessons packed within the game are amazing, and the speed at which they happen astounding. Thank you Joy for your thoughts.

  2. #3 by Kataskeuh Istoselidon on March 26, 2012 - 4:18 pm

    I am often to managing a blog and i genuinely be thankful for your articles. This content has really peaked my interest . I am going to bookmark your portal and keep checking out for fresh information.

    • #4 by KimunyaMugo on April 10, 2012 - 9:39 am

      Thanks for your comments. I hope to be of service to you 🙂

  3. #5 by David Hain on March 1, 2012 - 11:51 am

    Nice blog Kimunya, love the last sentence!

    • #6 by KimunyaMugo on March 1, 2012 - 12:03 pm

      Thanks David, always a pleasure to be in great company.

  4. #7 by Chuck Lee on March 1, 2012 - 11:15 am

    Hey, My name is Chuck Lee. Yesterday I discovered this site from browsing Search Engine Results using AOL I want you to know that I really enjoyed your webpage

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