Alex Ferguson
Leadership Case Study

Alex Ferguson Leadership Case Study is a part of Leadership Stories, a series of biographies of great leaders in history that have impacted the world in a huge way.

Alex Ferguson Leadership
Who is He?

Alex Ferguson is the famous manager of the world renowned Manchester United, which is known by many as the best soccer team in the world.

Alex Ferguson is the man behind the rise of this club from mediocrity to greatness.

A Quick History

Alex Ferguson was born in December 1941 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In his youth, he started developing a love for soccer and started playing as a striker at the young age of 16 for Queen’s Park. However, even though he had a good soccer record, he couldn’t secure a space in the regular team and hence transfer to another club.

His professional career began when he was signed by Dumfermline of St. Johnstone. He had a stellar career and was one of the Scottish Football League’s top scorers.

His managerial career would begin with the Scottish club Aberdeen; and eventually he would begin his Manchester United managerial career in 1986. From then on, the ailing Manchester United side began its climb to the top.

After many signings and instilling discipline into the players, Manchester United began its winning ways from December 1989, with its first FA trophy.

The rest of it was history. Manchester United went on to win many other trophies like the European Cup, the FA cup, the EPL, the Champions League for many years. They became the first club to win a Treble in a year in 1999 and they made history with that.

In May 2013, Alex Ferguson officially announced his retirement as the manager of Manchester United and has since taken up a position in the Board of Directors.

Awards and Honours

Sir Alex Ferguson has won many awards in the arena of soccer, and these include:

1.UEFA Champion’s League Manager of the Year Award
2.English Football Hall of Fame
3.UEFA Team of the Year
4.FA EPL Manager of the Year

And many more…

Alex Ferguson 
Leadership Lessons

1.The man is not bigger than the organization
Sir Alex Ferguson saw the importance of instilling humility in his players. He never allowed a single player to rise above the club. The player is never above the club, he says.

As a result, many top players like David Beckham or Roy Keane have left his team. Their influence and refusal to submit to his leadership meant that they had to leave, no matter how good they were as players.  

In today’s world, we exalt celebrity CEOs and we may have come to a belief that changing and turning a company around takes just one man.

However, the truth is that we need a team for organizational success. We need to be clear that no man should be greater than the organization. We need to build organizations that will live on long after we are gone. 

2.Succession is important
Sir Alex Ferguson saw the importance of constantly grooming players from their youth to play in the first team. For long term success, he saw that he had have a youth team that would take over the club in the future.

This approach was very different from a lot of the other top clubs in Europe; who bought top veteran players by paying top dollar for them.

However, ever since his retirement in May 2013, the club's performance have faltered under the new manager David Moyes. To some critics, this was a sign that succession planning was not done properly. 

When you are building an organization for the long term, you need to seriously consider good succession as well. Who is going to lead the organization when you’re not around? Who’s going to take over the tasks that you perform on a daily basis?

Before you walk away from any organization, you need to raise up someone willing and able to perform your tasks at the same level that you have. You need to mentor and teach this person while you are still around such that when you leave, the organization can still carry on business as usual. 

Related Books on
Alex Ferguson Leadership

Best Quotes from 
Sir Alex Ferguson Leadership

“Sometimes we can get too emotional as a club with things that are happening. But we're both of a common denominator - we don't want the club to be in anyone else's hands.”

“I have always tried to be the bridge between the club and the fans and I have tried to support the fans in a lot of their pleas and causes.”

“Only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat- and I expect us to do that”

“At the end of this game, the European Cup will be only six feet away from you and you’ll not even able to touch it if we lose. And for many of you that will be the closest you will ever get. Don’t you dare come back in here without giving your all”.

“I think it’s important to work and I’m entitled to work. Some people do not want to work but I want to continue working.”

Other Links

Wikipedia: A highly detailed account of the life of Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United's Official Site

Other Sports Leaders

» Vince Lombardi
Vince Lombardi is one of America’s most famous football coaches. He was the assistant coach for the New York Giants from 1954 – 1958 and served as Head Coach for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League.

» John Wooden
John Wooden was an American basketball coach. His record of winning the NCAA Championships 10 times with the University of California, Los Angeles college team is unprecedented.

» Alex Ferguson
Alex Ferguson is the famous manager of the world renowned Manchester United, which is known by many as the best soccer team in the world. Alex Ferguson is the man behind the rise of this club from mediocrity to greatness.

» Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho is the current coach of Real Madrid FC, one of the most successful football clubs in the world today. Having many successes with clubs like Chelsea, he has a self-proclaimed nickname "The Special One".

» Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is considered one of the world’s greatest boxers and a three time World Heavyweight Champion. His professional record of 56 wins to 5 losses is unprecedented.

» Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson is the current coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA.

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