Nuggets from Fergie’s Leading


I was recently at a conference in Scotland, kicking my heels in the evenings and, in pursuit of a supermarket sandwich, stumbled across Alex Ferguson’s new book Leading. Worth a skim I figured. In truth I found myself thoroughly captivated and devoured the whole thing cover to cover in 48 hours (whilst not skipping conference sessions you’ll understand!). I absolutely loved it, and came across many great nuggets from a guy who’s been leading a serious organization for three decades. Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:

  • Step back so you can see better. He used to run the training sessions til his assistant, Archie Knox, told him to hand it over and sit in the stand. As a result he had a much better understanding of the big picture – players habits, moods, work rate, form etc. So step back and get some perspective.
  • Fergie’s check-list for the characteristics of a good captain are an appetite for the job, understanding of the boss’ aims and desires, an ability to convey those desires, and someone respected by others. We might translate those as desire, ability, and character.
  • One step at a time – nothing is built overnight, and no sustainable work can be bought or created in a short space of time. Long tenures are critical to building a great organisation.
  • Celebrate wins, but never become complacent. If you think you’ve arrived it’s a sure fire sign that you’ve begun to decline. Keep working to be better, all the time.
  • Creating a culture is really important – it enables everyone who comes in to know what you value, and it creates community around a common purpose
  • Hire the best you can, but also invest within. Deliberate investment in the young yields the potential of a class act who understands the culture of the organisation.
  • Don’t micromanage – empower others and trust them to do their jobs – ‘working with, and through, others is by far the most effective way to do things.’
  • Good leaders need to manage themselves – a healthy diet, sleep, and exercise are all critical to long term leadership
  • Consider details and use innovation if it can help. Fergie talks about developments in Sports Science and nutrition – he’d pay attention to the little details and improvements that could make a big difference.

Now, Fergie’s far from perfect. He freely admits to losing his temper at times, and practically neglecting his family. This book needs to be read with a discerning eye. Nevertheless there’s an awful lot of good, helpful, and downright entertaining material in here. So treat yourself – get a copy, and get it read!


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