Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League Title success teaches us that a leader is “the one who makes us feel special”, not somebody who considers themselves “the special one”.
This is the message from the lead article in next month’s issue of The Psychologist, the official magazine of the British Psychological Society, by two of the world’s leading experts in the psychology of leadership, Professor Stephen Reicher, University of St Andrews, and Professor Alex Haslam, University of Queensland.
Reicher and Haslam note that Claudio Ranieri (pictured below left), the universally acclaimed Leicester manager, has not always been so successful or so well regarded.
Professor Reicher said: “Previously Ranieri had a terrible reputation for tinkering with his teams where his actions mimicked those of many corporate managers, whose passion for restructuring belies a desire to show the world what a great leader they are.
“But by the time he arrived at Leicester, Ranieri had learned the hard way, and no longer was his coaching a matter of imposing his personal will on the team – it was a matter of helping the team discover and impose their collective will.
“Ultimately, Claudio Ranieri’s redemption follows a trajectory from ‘I’ to ‘we’. From his first day as Leicester manager he was keen to make it clear that it was not he who was special, but the team and league that he had come to serve.”
Professor Haslam said: “Ranieri’s failures and successes teach us critical lessons about how to be a good leader – and also how to be a bad leader. Indeed, there is a long history of leaders in sport – but also in politics and business, moving in precisely the opposite direction to Ranieri.
“Early success seduced them into thinking they were special, and thereby transformed success into failure.”
Reicher and Haslam concluded: “By thinking of leadership solely in terms of the characteristics of the individual leader, we divide leaders from their followers, we compromise performance and organisational effectiveness.
“This is a salutary warning against a romantic model of leadership; a powerful illustration of the dangers of falling in love with one’s own reflection; a lesson to all leaders in all fields.”
Notes to news editors
The full article can be read on The Psychologist.
Professor Reicher is available for interview, via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01334 463057 or by contacting the University of St Andrews Communications Office.
Professor Alex Haslam can be contacted via email@example.com.
Images courtesy of Yahoo! Sport.
Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 467310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Research