What Frank Lampard teaches us about leadership (it’s not good)

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Eleven games. One win. Two draws. Eight defeats.

Frank Lampard is arguably one of the best English footballers of the past century. But his managerial career? Not so good.

In this blog, you’ll see how Frank as an example of how being good at something doesn’t make you a good manager.

(And what you can learn from this for your business).

Let’s get started.

Chelsea fans, look away. 

Management is a skill

Being good at something doesn’t mean you can lead others to do the same.

In football, typically, the best managers aren’t the best players:

  • Eddie Howe
  • Klopp
  • Mourinho

They all had average playing careers (although Pep Guardiola and Zidane do buck this trend).

But why is this? Because being good at something and managing people who do it are very different. 

On-the-job skills and managerial skills are not the same. 

Skills must be taught. 

Unless someone is a natural-born leader, if they’ve never learned how to manage, they’ll struggle. 

Stop automatically promoting your top performing people

The ‘star’ of the team gets promoted because they’re good at their job. You will 100% have either done or seen this before. 

Management hopes they’ll lead by example, but what they don’t account for is having to deal with:

  • Potential conflicts
  • Staff personal issues
  • Team building
  • Business culture
  • Knowing how and when to say no
  • Training
  • Mental health training

And that’s just scratching the surface of what managers do.

But can you guess what the worst part of all of this is?

It’s losing the person’s skills because you promoted them.

Who will replace them? You know how hard it is to find good staff at the moment.

Nobody goes to work to do a bad job

Being good at your job is intrinsically motivating and so if you promote your best performers and they don’t enjoy management, what do you think will happen?

They’ll either:

1 – Leave

2 – Be sacked (by you, probably)

There is a concept called the Peter Principle – it says you keep promoting people until you figure out what they’re shit at (and then fire them for it).

While that’s not an academic explanation, that’s essentially it.

Don’t let this happen.

So what can you do instead?

Find creative solutions when looking for leaders.

Yes, your best performer may tell you they want to progress into management (and they may display leadership qualities).

That’s fine. But what I’m saying is, don’t just promote someone just because they’re the best at the ‘day job’ on the team. 

Leadership requires different skills and competencies – they can be learned and developed but it’s not a space everyone feels comfortable in.

Think about back to your school days.

The best teachers were firm but fair. They weren’t the teachers who thought they were your mate.

Leading people is difficult – so let’s acknowledge that. And it’s important to get it right.

Your line managers are the people who set the tone at work. Their decisions every day have a massive impact on:

  • Your company culture
  • How happy your team are
  • How fulfilled your team feel at work
  • How safe they feel at work
  • How creative your team can be
  • How open and confident they are with you and each other

It is essential that all your leaders are trained in the skills they need – and you don’t assume they can do it.

Leaders are like archers

You can control the bow and the arrow, but you can’t control the wind. 

So work with what’s in your control. 

That includes making sure everyone on your team has the support they need (including your managers).

If you’d like to learn more about anything in this blog, send me an email to alison@reynolds-hr.com


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