Leicester City FC’s victory in the Premier League is a ‘rags to riches’ tale that has lessons for everyone seeking inspiration, success and a challenge to the status quo.
The Club’s historic feat has bucked the trend that favours only the richest clubs succeeding in a multitude of ways – breathing new life into David and Goliath possibilities. Whether a Leicester City fan or not, this rallying cry, speaks of the inspiration and hope the Club’s manager and team have afforded to anyone who has been touched by this staggering reversal of fortune – the stuff of fairy tales.
With a squad that cost a total of £54.4 million, (the same amount of money rivals Manchester City spent on a SINGLE player), Manager Claudio Ranieri has led the team in its first major league win in its 132-year history.
The style of their success was far from conventional and has many valuable lessons that can be transferred out of football to inspire any business, team or individual looking to up their game. Here are my top three insights:
1. Set challenging but realistic goals, if you do these well, you can achieve way beyond your expectations
The saying: ‘Reach for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars’ is a very popular well quoted verse, leads to the assumption that aiming impossibly high is the only way to succeed. But in Leicester City’s case the achievement did not come through big ambitions, it started the season with one goal: to avoid relegation.
Nine months ago the 5000-1 odds for Leicester winning the Premier League title, were the same odds as Elvis Presley being found alive this year: 5,000-1 against. Elvis is yet to turn up, but Leicester, who exemplified the term ‘underdog’, has achieved the impossible.
Ranieri concentrated on inspiring and building a cohesive team. Even after a string of wins, and talk of challenging for the Premier League title, Ranieri reiterated his team were just focusing on ‘winning one game at a time’ without the taking on the additional prospect or pressure of such a victory, until the last few games of the season, when victory as in sight.
Even now, after such an impressive win, Ranieri’s goal for next season is to finish in the top ten.
Ranieri set realistic goals that did not overwhelm players. He concentrated on nurturing and building a strong, grounded team.
Overambitious and often unrealistic goals can put too much pressure on teams and individuals. Fear of failure can limit their creativity and performance and even hinder getting started. Clear incremental steps can generate energy, confidence and creativity to achieve the goal and foster good collaboration within the team. No need for ‘dears caught in the headlights’.
2. Don’t give up, stick with what you are passionate about, you are never too old to succeed. There is no ‘secret formula’
Waiting for success means you appreciate it more when it comes. This is the first league title win of Ranieri’s 30-year managerial career. On winning he said: “I am very, very happy now because if I won this title at the beginning of my career, maybe I would have forgotten it by now. “No, now I am a very, very old man and I can feel much better.”
When Ranieri joined Leicester City, pundits expected him to lose his job by Christmas. He withstood this criticism with humility, humour and good grace.
Asked what was the secret to Leicester’s remarkable campaign, which has seen them lose just three matches en route to claiming the league, he said: “I don’t know the secret. I think the players, their heart and their soul won it.”
This leadership is style simple and effective ‘no gloss’: Ranieri is not concerned with individual success as a means of proving himself and is not ego-driven. He has a clear focus on the team and the goal, which allows members to contribute and grow, without fear of reprisal. He is always careful to redirect personal praise to commending the achievements of his team.
There are many ways to lead and achieve success in football and in business. Ranieri is proof that you don’t have to convince everyone you are the ‘special one’ to achieve great success. There is less emphasis is personal achievement, and a clear emphasis on the team (not individual players).
Team members can be alienated if emphasis is placed on only those who are ‘flavour of the month’ at any given time. Give the whole team a platform to develop and show their abilities and more members will fulfil their potential.
The longer you wait for the sweet taste of major success, the more humble you become and the more you appreciate it.
3. Keep the faith – believe in your abilities, even if not everyone can immediately see them. Defy convention
Jamie Vardy, the club’s top scorer has remained humble and very much a team player throughout the season. I love his story and use it to inspire my son and people who may feel the only way to success is to ‘follow the status quo’. And if that boat has sailed, so have their dreams.
Vardy was still working as a medical technician making splints at the age of 25, before being spotted playing for a non-league side. In just four years (and considered ‘over the hill’ in some football circles’) he is playing for England.
His Leicester career got off to such a slow start that he considered quitting football altogether. He was recently named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.
The team’s other star player, Riyad Mahrez, is an Algerian midfielder who was spotted playing for the French second division side Le Havre, and in 2014 was signed for £400,000, pocket money -in Premier League terms. He was recently named PFA Player of the Year.
These are just two examples, of the team’s players who were given a platform to develop and succeed. Many more examples can be found within this team.
Leaders and managers should always be on the lookout for untapped potential. Remember that character is just as important as ability in building a cohesive and high performing team.
Defy convention – there are lots of rough diamonds waiting to discovered, that would fill a valuable and unique role in your team or organisation!
Finally I could not resist adding this quote from an article by Adam Bate from Sky News, which sums up the mood of the nation, Leicester City fan or not. And reminds us all there is value in humility. Chelsea have parted company with Jose Mourinho after a dreadful season and Ranieri’s is the ‘man of the moment’.
“Consider that notorious line from Mourinho in disparaging his colleague’s work. ‘Ranieri has the mentality of someone who doesn’t need to win,’ he sneered. ‘He is too old to change.’ In a sense, Mourinho was right. Ranieri never has needed to win in quite the same way that the Portuguese coach has. But win he has. And now nobody wants him to change a thing.
“Ranieri has achieved something to surpass anything Mourinho or anyone else for that matter has ever achieved in the history of the Premier League. He’s turned cynical watch-company executives into child-like fans and made fools of pundits everywhere. A country is in his thrall. And somewhere along the way, the Tinkerman [Ranieri] has become a national treasure.”
There are many roads to victory. Making history requires taking a less trodden path, not a well-laid highway. Spectacular victory as in Leicester City’s case required taking an untrodden path, that has made football history we’ll still be talking about for decades to come.
Professional coach and journalist, Suzanne Simmons-Lewis helps her clients clarify and achieve their true purpose and ambitions in their careers and businesses, drawing out their unique talents. She inspires, supports and challenges clients in their journey to making their long-held dreams an exciting reality. E:email@example.com W: www.suzannesimmonslewis.com