When it comes to leadership Ange Postecoglou has claimed authenticity and remaining genuine are they key traits required to make a success of any management role. The Celtic boss picked up a herculean challenge when he took on the role of Celtic boss in the summer of 2021. The Hoops were on the back of a disastrous season and the guts of a hitherto successful squad had decided to leave, had one foot out the door, or were at least looking towards making a hasty exit.
Some managers would have baulked at the size of the task, or brought with them a multitude their own staff to smooth the transition and take some of the inevitable flack. Postecoglou however arrived on his own, used his vast footballing experience and contacts and rebuilt a squad from a near Ground Zero mark into a League and League Cup winning side in a matter of months.
To do that involves building trust and belief very early and is no easy task when football dressing rooms are often full of cliques, ulterior motives and vested interests.
Speaking to Celtic TV during the international break the Celtic boss has opened up on how he approaches management and why being yourself and affording empathy is key to success. Whether that’s in the world of football management or not, Postecoglou believes that translates to every business or organisation. So, as ever, perhaps there’s something from Postecoglou’s words we can all take into our working lives.
“I don’t think it’s different to any other kind of management. Ultimately, the key about all that is that you’re dealing with people and, as long you understand that, the environment or the organisation you work for becomes irrelevant.
“You need to manage people and understand people, and have an affinity and an empathy for each individual within that organisation, then you try to get everyone heading in the same direction. Football clubs are no different to that, the only difference I guess with football, sport in general and maybe other lines of business is that the scrutiny and the balance sheet is there very week rather than every six months or 12 months.
“You get measured at the end of every week or whenever your games are. So, that brings some added anxiety around if you let it guide your journey, but, ultimately, it’s just about people and understanding them. The one thing about leadership that I’ve come to understand is that probably the most key ingredient is to be yourself.
“If you try to be someone else, to try to do it in a way that was successful or effective for somebody else, ultimately if that isn’t who you are, it’s not going to work. When you talk about leadership and leaders, people will follow people they believe in and that only comes through the authenticity that you are who you are.
“But along the way you get exposed to different people and different types of leadership. You read, you look from afar and, ultimately, if you want to grab that sort of stuff, it should be only stuff that resonates with you, feels natural to you.
“Rather than trying to take, whether it’s a football manager like Sir Alex Ferguson, or a leader in industry or a political leader that you think: ‘Okay I really like the way he leads’. If you just try to copy and paste that, I just don’t think it’s going to work.
“If you use their words, it’s not going to work. People want to know that you’re genuine. There are many people along my journey that I’ve seen that I’ve really enjoyed their leadership, or it has affected me, but, ultimately, my own style is me, just who I am.”
The Celtic manager was also asked if experience had changed his own approach and outlook over the years, and Postecoglou explains it had and it has made him realise ‘staying true to yourself’ rather than being sidelined by trends allowed him to evolve whilst embracing those experiences.
“Experience, life experience, professional experience all those kinds of things – absolutely. That’s where staying true to yourself becomes really important. Because instead of involving your leadership to what maybe the latest trends are, it’s better if you evolve alongside the experiences you’ve had and, inevitably in life, whatever you do, as long as you’re doing something, you’re going to get some things right and some things wrong.
“You are going to make mistakes along the way, if you’re prepared to acknowledge that and use those bumps in the road to better yourself, then I think you’ll be in a better place with time. So, I’m definitely a different type of leader today than I was when I first started 26 years ago, but the world’s changed as well, so you need to be evolving with it.”
Ange Postecoglou is very much a doer as we’ve seen with the success Celtic have had since his arrival from Japan, but he is clearly also a deep thinker about not only football but what other life experiences you can draw upon to support your journey.
Perhaps the biggest achievement is not just the style of play and his bringing a group of young men from many footballing cultures together and being successful with it, but also his ability to recognise the right character traits in those players who are a credit to Celtic off the park just as much as they are on it.
And when you hear him speak you can see why a cult of Ange Postecoglou has formed amongst the players, staff and supporters of Celtic, because who wouldn’t want to work for a manager with the class and insight of Ange Postecoglou.