Could your organisation benefit from being more like Pep? Copyright: sportgraphic / 123RF Stock Photo










Those of you who read our blogs regularly will know we’re partial to an occasional piece about sports, and how you can apply some of the things we talk about to leadership. Hopefully you’ve read these and found them useful.

Well, we’re going to talk sports again. And specifically, how one man has really shown himself to be a true gamechanger with a new approach to his sport. That man is Pep Guardiola – current manager of runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City. If you’re not a follower of the beautiful game in general or a fan of the Citizens (City’s nickname), that doesn’t matter because we’re going to look at his leadership style and qualities, not how good his football team is (they’re very very good).

So, let’s look at what makes Pep, as he’s known, so successful as a manager, and how you can relate what he does to your organisation.

He has a philosophy and gets others to adopt it
Pep has won trophies in Spain and Germany before coming to England to manage and has done so playing a particular brand of football. It’s a style he believes in and he gets his players to believe in it too. The way his teams play is usually very different from how they’ve played before and it can take a season or two to adapt.

Once it does, however, it’s worth it. Sometimes you have to be prepared to not be instantly successful, while understanding you’ll get there in the long term, and bring others along for the ride too. Don’t be afraid to do that on your organisation, even if it takes a while to embed.

He has the right people in the right job
From front to back, the manager has his players in their best positions, and they all know their jobs in those positions. Pep also looked at where this wasn’t the case last season and fixed it by bringing new blood in. He also trusts players to know what to do and have the confidence to do it without fear of things going wrong.

We’ve written about responsibility and accountability before. The Man City players are allowed to think on the pitch and make their own decisions. They’re each accountable and are encouraged to express themselves. Having a sense of ownership inspires people to do their best on their job in all walks of life, not just out on the pitch. Who can give a bit more accountability and ownership too in your organisation?

He sees teamwork as important as individuality
What makes Man City so impressive, and so hard to play against, is their ability to work as a team. They defend together and attack as a unit, with forwards defending and defenders attacking. Players instinctively know to get back in numbers when they lose the ball and swarm forward once they’ve got it back, usually to devastating effect.

Pep also allows his players to be themselves and use their individual skills for the good of the team. His team is packed with technically gifted players who are all comfortable on the ball – even the goalkeeper. Importantly, the manager appreciates the individual qualities of his players and encourages them to flourish. Think about your organisation and what the team spirit’s like there – do all your players work equally well together and understand and appreciate each other’s strengths?

He’s constantly looking to improve his team
Pep very much sees himself as a coach as much as a manager. Unlike a lot of managers, he takes the team training sessions and works on individual players’ weaknesses. Only this week, winger Raheem Sterling revealed how Pep showed him how to change his body shape when running at defenders. You only have to look at the player’s stats this season to see the improvement in his game as a result.

Coaching is a big part of leadership. It’s a hard skill to master and many leaders shy away from it, but the Spaniard has shown how important it is to him and his players. The Nathan Redmond incident, where he approached the Southampton winger to tell him how good he could be if he dribbled with the ball more shows he simply can’t help looking to improve people, even when they don’t play for his side.

In many organisations, people work in silos with little or no knowledge of what’s going on in other areas. Could you take the time to help someone out and try and make them better themselves if they weren’t in your direct area of responsibility?

He’s always one step ahead of the opposition
Tactically, Pep is out there on his own. His Manchester City team play in a way unlike any other in the Premier League, and so far, no other team or manager has figured out a way to stop them. The key to this is Guardiola’s attention to detail and how he studies other teams resulting in a slight positional tweak or unexpected change of formation designed to bamboozle opposition managers.

So, what can you take into your organisation? A long-term vision others can believe in, the right people in the place, teamwork, appreciation of people’s individual qualities, regular coaching, and getting ahead of your competition are the cogs in Pep’s wheel.

Maybe it’s time your organisation had a Pep talk.