Three things Gareth Southgate is teaching us about leadership

Gareth Southgate has done tremendously well as the manager of the England football team who have achieved way beyond expectations at the World Cup Finals.

Many are putting much of this overachievement down to the impact of Gareth’s leadership. In his own quiet way, Gareth has been sending us some powerful messages about leading.

Here are my top three that might help you grow even faster as a leader.

We can all grow as leaders. It just takes practice.

I first met Gareth five years ago when I was running a leadership programme for budding football managers at St George’s Park, the new centre of English Football Excellence.

At that time, he was an up and coming manager and it wasn’t at all obvious that here was a future leader of the country’s football team. But it’s now clear that he has applied himself diligently to learning about leadership and as a result he’s grown significantly. This is something we can all do.

Pause here and notice: how strongly have you applied yourself to growing yourself as a leader? How clear are you on what you’re practising?

You don’t have to be extrovert or big and loud to be an effective leader.

I was interviewed about Gareth the other day and was asked whether coming across as ‘a nice guy’ was a plus or a negative.

I replied that in the last 25 years, I’ve coached hundreds of leaders in all walks of life and can state categorically that becoming a successful leader does not depend on you having a certain kind of personality.

Nor does it rely on a high level of intelligence or you having to have people reporting to you. Don’t let any thoughts of not being the right sort of person to lead hold you back from stepping forward as a leader.

Rather, do what Gareth has done so well which is focus on building and flexing the three essential Leadership Muscles.

Leading is not about about personality; it’s about using your Leadership Muscles to get three jobs done.

You have these muscles but may not be using them as best you can. I call them Future - Engage - Deliver. This is how Gareth has used his to great effect.

When you’re in your leader mode, your thinking always starts in the future. You’re in touch with the future you most want and that picture energises you. You’re not held back by where you currently are.

Gareth has been clear and strong on this. He wants certain kinds of player and team behaviours both on and off the field and he’s unambiguous about this.

How clear and energised are you about the future you want to create?

But it’s not enough just to have ideas about the future you want.

You must also interact with others so that they are willing to come with you and help build that future. I call this being engaging and this is different to telling or talking at people! This is something a lot of football managers and others in leadership positions just don’t get.

In contrast, Gareth has been outstanding here. He’s built relationships with each player; he’s talked but he’s listened too; he has each player feeling valued whether they play in the matches or not; this in turn has helped the players engage in and support each other; and the result is that this is the most relaxed and close group of English players anyone has seen at a World Cup.

But Gareth has not stopped here. He’s then helped his players deliver.

At the core of helping others deliver is the leader helping draw the best from each player and helping that best become even better. As any fan of football will tell you, this has not always happened for the England team.

For decades, we have seen highly skilled players become nervous and fearful when they’ve pulled on the England shirt.

Many have been aware of this and talked openly about it but have still been powerless to get back into being at their best. That is, until Gareth came along.

He’s helped them take that relaxed air onto the pitch to help them play some of the finest football we’ve seen from the national team for ages. One player, Dele Alli, talks about being ‘excited not nervous’.

How much is getting the best from others a front of mind activity for you?

So that’s what he’s done. He’s grown and flexed those essential Leadership Muscles, Future - Engage - Deliver.

Leadership is no more complicated than that.

What do you notice about your Future, Engage and Deliver muscles and how might you grow them to help you and colleagues exceed all expectations?

You can tell I have a passion to help people grow as leaders. If you think this article might help your friends and colleagues, please share it. 


This article originally appeared on LinkedIn