Merci Arsene – lessons on leadership
On Sunday, Arsene Wenger bid au revoir to the Emirates with a rousing reception from the Arsenal fans he served for 22 years.
In this time, he won three league titles, seven FA Cups and not forgetting the unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ of 2003-04 where they went the entire season unbeaten.
As a Liverpool fan, this is painful for me to write!
But from a business perspective this is a huge lesson on Leadership.
- He set-up a new environment and transformed the whole of English football by introducing new training and dietary methods.
- His ambition was to win with style so attracted the right players to his team.
- He wanted his team to become ‘better people’ as he felt this would lead to becoming better players.
- He made players believe they can achieve great things on and off the pitch.
- He focused on marginal gains.
- He led by example, giving his total commitment to do well for the club.
- Despite all the money involved in football, Wenger’s belief was that a club is about identity and values being carried through the generations through somebody.
BUT the real lessons learned come from when things change – like they do in business – and how this can affect everything.
In 2006, Arsenal moved from Highbury to the new Emirates Stadium to allow the club to sustain their competitiveness at the highest level and to be a leading European Club.
The following year, an American Billionaire bought stakes in Arsenal and shortly after, vice-chairman David Dein left due to irreconcilable differences.
These developments had a massive impact on the values, vision, environment and leadership of the club:
- The club was now under huge financial pressure. Rather than developing and retaining their team, they were forced to sell top rate players.
- Their identity had to undergo and long process of “Arsenalisation” in a bid to restore the club’s heritage and history.
- David Dein’s departure meant that Wenger lost a big ally, and the players a great leader: Dein went into the dressing room after every single game to shake each player by the hand. He knew all the youth team players and was instrumental in convincing some of the world’s biggest talents to join the club. Thierry Henry claimed that Dein’s departure left him in no doubt that it was time to move on.
So, Merci Arsene for the football memories, for the lessons on leadership, and for showing us no matter what level you’re managing at, it can be really really tough leading a team when things around you are constantly moving!