Chelsea 0 Manchester City 0: A leadership dilemma

8th March 2019

Outside Fortress Europe Excerpts
This Global Business Strategy Blog post is based upon unabridged excerpts from Chapter Eight, Implementing Global Business Strategy, in Outside Fortress Europe: Strategies for the Global Market.



Hughes, M. (2019, February 26). Maurizio Sarri needs backing at Chelsea – he has got silence.

On 24th February 2019, an extraordinary incident took place in the dying moments of an extremely dreary albeit evenly-matched English football cup final. The result:

Final Score
Chelsea 0 Manchester City 0

In a nutshell, what happened was the Chelsea goalkeeper snubbed ‘the boss’ and wouldn’t leave the pitch to be substituted ahead of the final countdown, a penalty shootout. The global TV audience watched in disbelief as the incident unfolded. Reflecting on the melodrama, the Sports News Correspondent of The Times, Matt Hughes, observed:

By refusing to comply with Maurizio Sarri’s instruction to be replaced by Willy Caballero in extra time … during the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on Sunday, Kepa Arrizabalaga took insurrection to a whole new level.

The following day, in a more contemplative piece, Hughes’ Times colleague Matthew Syed, former Olympian (table tennis) and leading authority on the science of generic high performance in human beings added the following insights on the episode:

When the goalkeeper refused to be substituted during the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, it was not only a sign of his immaturity but a symptom of the impotence of Maurizio Sarri. How can a manager or head coach … hope to sustain control when the owner, Roman Abramovich, is absent due to visa problems and has historically sided with the players in any power struggle? What we have at Chelsea is not empowerment, but mutiny in episodic form.

Citing the popular book Friend & Foe: When to Cooperate, When to Compete, and How to Succeed at Both by Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer, Syed describes the example of a young Google corporation experimenting with organizational design and abandoning hierarchy in favour of a zero-managers, ‘flat’ institution. It was a predictably chaotic disaster.

Effective leadership and management are essential ingredients of success for even the smallest of companies, and they grow in immeasurable complexity in larger organizations and especially when these companies embark on global business strategy ‘adventures’.

Consider again the two short quotations presented above and the following words they contain:

      • Compliance.
      • Instruction.
      • Replacement.
      • Insurrection.
      • [employee] Immaturity.
      • [management] Impotence.
      • Sustain.
      • Control.
      • [absent] Owner.
      • Sided [with].
      • Power Struggle.
      • Empowerment.
      • Mutiny.

All of the above will feature in any general management textbook or book on the principles of leadership. As suggested above, from a global business strategy perspective, further layers of complexity are added, as we demonstrate in the following Outside Fortress Europe excerpt.


Outside Fortress Europe Excerpt

A brief look at leadership in global business strategy

The important role of leadership in creating a customer-centric organization has featured heavily in the latter parts of this chapter and will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Eleven, A Strategic Perspective on Managing Change. First, though, a riddle:

Question: what do the following three great leaders have in common over and above having led teams of super-egotistical individuals to huge achievements in the beautiful game?

      1. Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese peacock, the surly self-styled ‘special one’.
      1. Arsène Wegner, the grey, urbane, tortured-looking but thoughtful Frenchman, respectfully known by players and pundits alike as ‘the professor’.
      1. Sir Alex Fergusson, the dour, red-wine nosed, squeaky-bottomed ‘hairdresser’ from gritty Glasgow?

Answer: for one reason or another they were all relatively unsuccessful as football players.

This progression from incompetence and failure to ultra-competence and success as leaders is unusual: in organizational life especially it typically works the other way around, wherein successful managers are promoted up the hierarchy until they ultimately (and ‘inevitably’) reach their level of incompetence, a bureaucratical phenomenon known as the Peter Principle (see Peter and Hull, 2011, for a discussion of fun and frivolity in organizational life as the wheels of hierarchy slowly revolve).

Returning to our football management trio and what they have in common, we can also say that each man is highly charismatic which, if nothing else, proves the point that charisma is multi-faceted in nature. So where do great leaders come from? Are they born and/or can they be nurtured? Figure 1 presents the multiple factors underpinning Inspired Leadership.

There is no shortage of articles and books on leadership and many of them are not particularly insightful, a contention supported by veteran management academic Jerry Pfeffer in his latest book Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (Pfeffer, 2015). The factors presented in Figure 1 which collectively contribute to the notion of Inspired Leadership and the ‘high performance’ organization cover a diversity of competencies, but they do have one thing in common: none of them directly hint at ‘personality’ or ‘charisma’ which is so typical in the ‘leader-as-hero’ genre of management books, especially those written by retired leaders as they reflect on their glory years in pseudo-autobiographical style e.g. Lou Gerstner (2003), Richard Branson (2009, 2017). Branson appears to be serialising his life rather than reflecting upon it, the ultimate self-publicist and, indeed, self-publisher (his books are published by Virgin Books). For a counter-balance on Branson, it is recommended that the unauthorised profile of the Virgin boss written by forensic biographer Tom Bower (2014), Branson: Behind the Mask, is consulted.

Undoubtedly, the most compelling ‘warts and all’ biography written about an inspirational business leader in recent years is Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson (2011), a highly respected, independent business commentator and biographer of the famous, including Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger. Isaacson was given full access to Jobs and his family along with Apple executives and employees. There was no vetting from the outset and no redactions or exclusions in the final published book.

The ultimate hubristic leadership autobiography was written by the man who sacked Jobs in the late 1980s, John Scully (1989): Odyssey: From Pepsi to Apple, the Story of a Marketing Genius. No kidding. A reprinted edition of this book was published in 1994, just around the time that Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy and its Board had put Scully on ‘sabbatical’ while begging Jobs to return as CEO to sort out the mess which the self-proclaimed marketing genius had left behind.

We return to the subject of leadership in subsequent chapters but will conclude this section with yet more wise words from Peter Drucker and Warren Buffet, both quotes very apt for this section. Drucker first:

No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.

As a final remark, we restate the wisdom of the Sage of Omaha, investors’ champion Warren Buffet:

Invest in a business that even a fool can run because someday a fool will.

Recommended resources for further inquiry

For readers interested in studying leadership further, the author’s two recommendations (which provide quite contrasting perspectives), based upon the multiple criteria presented in the ‘Introduction to the Global Business Strategy Blog’ and extracted here, are:

      1. Kouzes and Posner (2017), The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations.
      2. Pfeffer (2015), Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time.

For readers interested in studying the psychological dimensions of success and failure in organizations and in life more generally, including as individuals and in teams, we highly recommend Mathew Syed’s 2016 book: Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance.

Outside Fortress Europe Excerpt References

Bower, T. (2014). Branson: Behind the Mask. London: Faber & Faber.
Branson, R. (2009). Losing my Virginity: The Autobiography. London: Virgin Books.
Branson, R. (2017). Finding my Virginity: The New Autobiography. London: Virgin Books.
Drucker, P. F. (1974). Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. London: Heinemann Professional Publishing.
Gerstner, L. (2003). Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround. London: HarperCollins.
Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography. London: Abacus.
Peter, L. J., & Hull, R. (2011). The Peter Principle: Why things always go wrong – Reprint edition. London: HarperBusiness.
Pfeffer, J. (2015). Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time. London: Harper Collins.
Sculley, J. (1989). Odyssey: From Pepsi to Apple, the Story of a Marketing Genius. New York: Fontana Press.


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