Leadership Lessons from Football from Ben Lyttleton

Unlock leadership insights from football with Ben Littleton. Explore talent spotting, team cohesion, adaptability, and resilience for effective leadership in business and everyday life.

"Leadership lessons we can learn from football are seriously valuable"

At the GENCFO Academy back in 2022, we had the pleasure of hosting Ben Littleton, a well-known sports journalist and author. During his session, Ben shared some really interesting insights into leadership, drawing from the world of football's top minds. His books, '12 Yards' and 'Edge: Leadership Secrets from Football’s Top Thinkers,' are packed with nuggets of wisdom about how football lessons can be applied to leadership in business and everyday life.

Ben's work is all about what we can learn from football. In '12 Yards,' his first book, he really got into the nitty-gritty of penalty kicks, showing they're more than just a matter of luck. And in 'Edge,' he delved into how the best football coaches build and lead their teams, offering some serious food for thought for business leaders.

The Importance of Spotting Talent

One thing Ben mentioned that really stuck with him from his research was the importance of spotting talent. He talked about Ousmane Dembele, whom he identified as a real talent back in 2014 not just because of his skills on the field, but because of his attitude and work ethic. It's that kind of holistic approach to talent spotting that can really make a difference, no matter what field you're in.

Having cohesion is key

Team cohesion is another big theme. Ben pointed to Athletic Club de Bilbao as an example – they only sign local Basque players, turning what might seem like a limitation into a strength. The camaraderie and shared purpose within that team give them a real edge. On the other hand, teams like Paris Saint-Germain, loaded with star players, often struggle because they lack that cohesion.

Ben also talked about the Super Chicken Experiment, which shows how teams full of superstars but lacking cohesion can end up doing more harm than good. It's all about building teams based on shared values and mutual respect.

Be adaptable

Being adaptable is key when it comes to leadership, Ben said. He had some really interesting discussions with Thomas Tuchel about this – it's about adapting to different environments and measures of success while staying true to yourself and being open to new ideas.

And resilience? Well, that's another big one. Ben mentioned Tim Harkness at Chelsea, who uses some cool techniques to help players build resilience. It's all about facing challenges head-on and bouncing back stronger.

Look at the England women’s football team, the Lionesses, and their recent triumph at the Euros. They showed incredible cohesion, adaptability, and resilience – all qualities that are just as important in the boardroom as they are on the pitch.

What can we learn?

So, in a nutshell, the leadership lessons we can learn from football are seriously valuable. Whether it's spotting talent, building cohesion, staying adaptable, or being resilient, these insights can help us all become better leaders, no matter what field we're in.

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Christopher Argent, Founder, GENCFO

Chris is the founder and MD of GenerationCFO.com and creator of the Digital Finance Function Model and a contributor to many articles on our platform. Chris focuses on the shift toward digital transformation in accounting and finance, shows you what good looks like, then helps to get you there!

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