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What Gareth Southgate and Donald Trump can teach us about leadership

PUBLISHED: 17:50 12 July 2018

England manager Gareth Southgate after losing the FIFA World Cup. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

England manager Gareth Southgate after losing the FIFA World Cup. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

PA Wire

Although football didn’t end up ‘coming home’ for England, Gareth Southgate’s management techniques did score highly, and could offer lessons to anyone managing teams in the corporate world too.

Donald Trump will join Theresa May for a black-tie dinner tonight at Blenheim Palace Picture: AP PHOTO/MARKUS SCHREIBERDonald Trump will join Theresa May for a black-tie dinner tonight at Blenheim Palace Picture: AP PHOTO/MARKUS SCHREIBER

His collaborative approach, calm confidence and composure contrasts starkly with that of another successful leader who touched down in the UK today - Donald Trump.

The American president, whose style is more ‘command and control’, once summed up his mantra on negotiating: “It’s give-and-take. But it’s gotta be mostly take. Because you can’t give. You gotta mostly take.”

According to David Betts, a business coach for ActionCoach, based in Colchester, comparing Trump to Southgate is “like comparing a ‘me’ person to a ‘we’ person.”

“Southgate never underestimated the power of team, and when a team truly pulls together behind a great leader they can achieve phenomenal things,” he explained. “Trump an autocratic individual who creates activity, as compared to Southgate, a democratic leader who gets results through his team. Trump is the noise you can’t ignore, as compared to Southgate, whose results you can’t ignore.”

Neil Gregory nets a first half hat-trick as Ipswich Town beat Sheffield United 3-1 at Portman Road in March 1997Neil Gregory nets a first half hat-trick as Ipswich Town beat Sheffield United 3-1 at Portman Road in March 1997

Entrepreneurs are often told by management experts to be ‘risk-takers’ and ‘learn from failure’, and Southgate knows failure better than almost any other England footballer, having missed that vital penalty at Euro ‘96. “I’ve learnt a million things from the day and the years that have followed it,” Southgate said recently, “the biggest thing being that when something goes wrong in your life, it doesn’t finish you.”

Mr Betts says he can’t imagine Trump on the other hand facing up to his failures. “He’s like a baby tossing toys out of the pram with his helicopter management approach - he kicks up a lot of dust, which then takes a long time to settle.”

But while Trump’s approach has led to him facing a high staff turnover in the Whitehouse, he’s also been praised for “getting things done.” “He is bold, and he’s not afraid to throw everything up in the air and start again,” Mr Betts explained. “Sometimes when you reach an impasse you need to take some radical action to get people refocused and get things moving again.

It takes courage and self confidence to publicly stand up, voicing an opinion which differs from everyone else -

Neil Gregory. Picture: Neil GregoryNeil Gregory. Picture: Neil Gregory

and that’s a lesson that any entrepreneur can learn from.”

Financial services director Neil Gregory knows better than most how lessons in management can be learnt from the football pitch, as the 45 year-old used to play football professionally for Ipswich Town and Colchester United before embarking on his career in finance.

Mr Gregory’s company, Coffey Brooks Financial Services, is based in Clacton and has offices in Tiptree, Harwich and Ipswich. “As a footballer, I learnt to think a lot about other players in the team, because you all have to get on, or at least tolerate each other in a football team - and I apply that same thinking to my business,” he said.

Mr Gregory claims that too many footballers these days are “superstars with big egos.” “But Southgate treated them a normal people, and as equals in the team,” he said, adding: “He is a successful leader because he trusts his players implicitly to do what he needs them to do, and he doesn’t tell them off - he backs them 100%.”

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