Hodgson’s steps to success

Roy Hodgson returns to York to receive his honorary degree and give a lecture on leadership

Image: Beacon

Image: Beacon

In his recent lecture on leadership, newly crowned Dr. Hodgson identified 10 key areas for the budding luminary.  Opening with a brief self-introduction, he set the scene for success with his description of the conception of these fundamental ideas of leadership as being “out in the sun on a deckchair in Dubai”.

Not only does this set our poor student hearts aflutter, but it hints at his 40 years of coaching success. Thus he petitions us as a “group of students” joining society as an “elite member” to use our brain power to “good effect”. Hodgson was keen to stress the varying qualities of leaders from across his field, highlighting that there is no prototype of personality that makes for a good leader, and that with the right set of skills just about anyone could be successful in their own industry.
He talked of the bubbly character of Robson in comparison to the quiet manner of Sexton, yet remaining insistent on each of them being notable leaders in football. “Leadership, put simply, is a combination of energy and a display of guidance,” he mused. He went on to say that there are two questions to ask yourself that can help with leadership: “What do you want from people? How do you want them to feel?”
In light of this, these aspects of leadership are applicable to any individual on their quest to the top, no matter their area of expertise.

1. Create a good envrionment

First and foremost he was clear to establish that “discipline is formed rather than imposed”, especially in the ever evolving sphere of money in football. According to common knowledge of football salaries, footballers should have no problem with fines, therefore how does one enforce rules upon them?

Using the analogy of a film, Hodgson alluded to the fact that everyone knows the actors but they don’t always know the director, and the same can be said for football. Players feel unbelievably comfortable and wanted. Therefore to create a good environment you need everyone “to buy into a common goal”. Respect therefore becomes ever present and there is a strong balance between work and play with an emphasis on consideration, gratitude, humility and kindness.

2. Maintain a sense of perspective

Hodgson continued by asking at what point kindness becomes pejorative.  “Everything is on a scale between life and death”, he muses. “You can’t use perspective all the time.”
So you have to ask yourself what the worse scenario might be and “is that really the worse thing?” Hodgson looked back to his days at Bristol City, where he was losing every week, and losing players.

One specific anecdote discusses how he would go to bed on Friday knowing they would lose and wake up again on Sunday to know he would read about it.

3. Stay consistent in your approach

Yet even in times such as those, you should remain, claimed Hodgson, as logical as possible. “Take mood swings out of the equation” as he bluntly points out, and the “world keeps moving”. In university terms, the deadline doesn’t get any further for every bad day you have, and so the football manager claims we should stick to principles and philosophies that facilitate a consistent approach.

4. Be prepared to explain decisions

Communication, therefore, is key, in all circumstances. Hodgson fondly spoke of his wife’s laughing response to this point but the argument still stands. The power that players have compared to managers in particular resulted in the unceremonious dropping of Mourinho, therefore especially  in football but equally applicable elsewhere, as a leader you need to be prepared to explain decisions. That’s not to say that these decisions all have to come from you. Hodgson spoke of the great range of people present in the club.

5. Share the decision making

He also pointed out the flaws of the format in which he delived his speech. As in lectures, the speaker simply addresses the audience, there is no feedback, they do not hear complaints and then they leave thinking all are in agreement. As far as improving lectures at UOY, perhaps academics could take a page out of Hodgson’s book on leadership.
He explained how he reminds the team of what they’re doing principally, then he moves on to show them clips of group positions and creates a clear line of expectation.
The difference being that second time round the players can talk back. The only thing that needs to be autocratic therefore is team selection.

6. Value of preparation

There are a wealth of quotes in reference to the value of preparation, be it “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” or Bobby Knight’s assertion that “the key is not the will to win… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” All highlight Hodgson’s point on the importance of thinking through every possible scenario.

Something which stood out to me during the talk was the eloquence with which Hodgson described that “Each game has its own story, own life and own history” so he is unwilling to select anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable or doesn’t know what he needs to do.

7. Importance of humanity

Being in the public eye, a topic which came up a lot during the talk, results in a level of popularity – be it good or bad. As is the nature of popular sport. Hodgson made reference however to  the press’ treatment of Ramsay and the extent to which he was vilified and battered – so much so that after the World Cup he refused point blank to speak to them and simply walked off.

Therefore on a personal level he seemed grateful and surprised by how pleasant and encouraging people are to him, and saw it as an important thing to acknowledge.

8. Acceptance of failures

Obviously when mistakes are made, reporters are likely to respond accordingly.
Hodsgon simply stated however that “you cannot share failures, only successes”. His infamous stint at Liverpool between 2010 and 2011, while far from being described as a failure, was not the crowning jewel in his illustrious career, yet the now England manager stresses that he learned from this difficult time.

“To refuse to accept failure is to hold at arms’ length one of life’s virtues,” he said – and left it at that, showing his acceptance of it. Many leading figures talk of the benefits of failure – JK Rowling delivered a speech to graduating students at Harvard about how her success would have been nothing without her failures. If two of the UK’s most inspiring talents attest to this, maybe we should listen.

9. Don’t get complacent

From mistakes, as with any aberration, a lesson can be learned. To avoid complacency therefore you should not get stuck in your own ways and never believe you know it all.
Roy spoke of the student lifestyle and livelihood, and how, while at once inviting and inspiring all manners of passions and ideas, it can also be a place of complacency, where one’s old hobbies and obsessions wither away without nurturing. Complacency, he said, was a far more contagious quality than failure, and holding it at bay is often half the struggle.

Hodgson also believes that avoiding complacency allows you to be a good student, while maintaining a passion and desire for knowledge that lifts you above the crowd to a position of leadership.

10. Be a good student

It isn’t the shiniest pearl of wisdom that he offered, but it rings with his emphasis of self-maximisation, and a refusal to be less than your best. This ultimately gives you a greater advantage as continuing to learn also leads to a more open mind.

Hodgson affectionately expressed his jealousy of us as a student body working towards getting our degree, affirming his interest in education and the importance it has in creating strong leaders. As a leader himself, he’s second to none. He is simultaneously about as everday and inspiring as you could get.

And as an honorary doctor, he’s proved that success, personal passions and a thirst for knowledge can  really all be amalgamated and achieved – Dr Roy: the new triple threat.

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