I’m a Liverpool fan, and I’m still basking in the contentedness of a brilliant season that ended last month. We didn’t win the league, but the fact we came second, and were still in with a shout of winning it on the final day, shows just how strong we’ve been this year. Key players like Luis Suarez and Stephen Gerrard obviously deserve praise for all this, and Brendan Rodgers has been justly recognised as Manager of the Season. But the unsung heroes of the recent rise of Liverpool FC are our relatively new owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
FSG bought the club back in December 2010, rescuing us from dark days that their subsequent leadership has made seem to be a life-age away. The fact we’ve made such progress in three and a half years is largely down to their leadership, and three key qualities they possess:
Not Afraid to Make Big Decisions
When FSG took over Roy Hodgson was the manager. The team were struggling, and many felt Hodgson wasn’t right for the club. The new owners gave him two more months to prove himself, but then when results didn’t improve they acted quickly; they sacked Hodgson and replaced him with Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish. That immediately lifted the spirits of the club. The following year Dalglish took us to a League Cup win and an FA Cup final, but with our league position still being disappointing FSG acted again, dismissing Dalglish and bringing in Brendan Rodgers. Twice they had shown they would give managers an opportunity to achieve results, but would also not be afraid to make the difficult decisions when something needed to be changed.
Brought in Young People with a Point to Prove
The favourite FSG transfer tactic is to bring in young players who have a point to prove, and will work hard for a number of years for the club. Daniel Sturridge had spent time on the bench at Manchester City and Chelsea, so when he came to Liverpool it was his opportunity to prove he was capable of being a top striker. Likewise, Phillipe Coutinho had been at Inter Milan, but never given a good chance at the club. He came to Liverpool hungry to prove something. Joe Allen, Fabio Borini, Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho also fit into this category. And arguably, signing Rodgers himself has been FSG’s shrewdest signing – a young manager with a point to prove.
Respected the Organisation’s History
Previous Liverpool owners have come in with promises to build a new stadium for the club, but such dreams of a 60,000 home quickly turned to nothing. Rather than immediately promise a new stadium, FSG promised to listen to the fans, learn the club’s history, and then make a decision that would best serve the club. Rather than build a new stadium they’ve decided to renovate the existing one. Having worked on planning applications, in conjunction with the fans and Liverpool City Council, work is scheduled to begin in summer 2015. Having learned the organisation’s history, they’ve made a decision that best serves all parties. Again, progress is being made, but progress in keeping with Liverpool’s history.
So three leadership lessons from them; don’t be afraid of making big decisions, bring in young team members hungry to prove a point, and respect the organisation’s history. Which do you need to work on most in your leadership?
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and has a biography on William Wilberforce coming out in October 2014. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markraynespark.