Joseph Iregbu

Purpose Guy

8 Secrets of Successful Leadership: Sir Alex Ferguson

Before you ask the question, no, I am not an Manchester United fan! But I’m a lover of excellence and success stories. I watched a recent documentary on Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the most successful manager in the history of the English Premier League.

Speaking to a group of Harvard Business School students, Sir Alex shared his model of leadership success, on and off the pitch. I found his insights incredibly universal to every sphere of leadership.

Alex Ferguson

Elements of leadership are universal, whether in football or business — Sir Alex Ferguson.

In this post, I want to share 8 secrets to leadership success outlined by Sir Alex in the documentary (interlaced with my words and insights).

Focus on your core values

Your core values define who you are and what you stand for. Limit your core value stream to what matters to your purpose. There’s an inseparable link between personal values and purpose.

You need to focus  — don’t be all over the place.

Be part of the team

Successful leaders surround themselves with an inner core group of people that share their vision. With such inner circle, you then need to create a family atmosphere.

Work as part of the team. Make sacrifices for the team. Make your team happy (this applies to every sphere of leadership, whether at home, marriage, ministry or career).

Challenge existing culture

Leaders that go on to achieve great things don’t settle for average. You must be prepared to challenge existing culture of failure and mediocrity.

Don’t be afraid to change or drive change.

Instill discipline

I will never forget the words of a senior pastor: “Discipline will give you the level of success that anointing cannot.”

In his words, Sir Alex spoke about the need to stay in control of situations without losing your principle of discipline.

Only the disciplined can install discipline in others. You cannot challenge others on their lack of personal or team discipline if you are not an example of the same. During his time at Old Trafford, he built a reputation of being the first in and last person to leave after his team is gone.

That takes discipline.

Never lower your expectations

Sir Alex had a reputation for excellence. Average was never on his agenda. After several years of success, you would be tempted to lower your expectations. Not Sir Alex! He stayed hungry for more success.

Don’t embrace average; it’s the enemy of excellence. Dream big. Think big. Act big. And you will experience big successes in your lifetime.


Stay motivated

In 1 Samuel 30:6, we see a distressed David find inner strength to motivate himself again, regardless of looming failure and loss. We can lose track on our journey. We can lose motivation along the way. That’s not strange. But you need to find what lifts your motivation.

For some, it’s honing into their inner circle (family, friends, church, spouse…) or seeking spiritual renewal through personal or corporate retreat. Whatever works for you, find it, do it and repeat it.

One way Sir Alex was able to maintain his level of motivation was by building and rebuilding his team every football season. Find what works for you and stick to it.

Stay in control, but not over people

Successful leadership is not about clutching tight to power but staying in control (not over people, but your sphere of leadership). Don’t be power hungry or exert your authority in a way that undermines others.

Build your team around respect, not fear; respect breeds trust — and that’s what every leader needs in order to thrive.

Listen. Learn. Lead

Successful leaders listen to people. Right decisions are made on the backdrop of right information. Never turn people away.

Successful leaders constantly improve themselves by learning new skills to stay relevant to their purpose. If you stop learning, you stop growing. If you stop growing, you’re not fit to lead anyone.

Successful leaders understand that a key measure of their success is against how much they develop others. Great leaders aim to replicate better than themselves.

Question: What leadership lesson(s) strikes you the most out of the 8? Feel free to share your own leadership success tip(s) too.

Images courtesy of Amyq | Flickr and Flickr.

About Joseph Iregbu

From a homeless, near-school-dropout to living a story worth telling. Purpose is my passion. What's your story?

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