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Leadership Lessons from Jurgen Klopp - What we can all learn about leadership and culture

4th June 2019

After the amazing comeback against Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League it is only fitting that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool went on to win the Champions League for the 6th time in their history. I was fortunate to be at the game at Anfield when Liverpool came back from 3-0 down to win and also at the final in Madrid. What is obvious from this winning team is the bond between the players and the manager. Jurgen Klopp has turned LFC into a European powerhouse with his energy, enthusiasm, style and exceptional leadership. There are so many lessons we can learn from this man about his leadership style and in life in general.

Klopp is all or nothing in his approach to football, labelling it 'rock and roll football'. As we know the players along with the fans love him. In fact most other fans find it hard to dislike Jurgen Klopp because he is a genuine likeable and funny guy. And after years of losing finals Klopp finally won the biggest prize in club football. It was an amazing final to be at, as both teams if not producing the greatest final still gave it their all.

And as the Liverpool supporters took over Madrid in a sea of red with their passion, brilliant support and behaviour, so the same can be said of the gracious Spurs fans. This is how fans should be at a final enjoying the moment and accepting either way the final outcome.

Jurgen after winning the Champions League ran onto the pitch to share the moment with his players like he does every game Liverpool play. His leadership is visible, infectious, sincere, demanding and inspirational. He’s the manager players want to play for.

What then can we learn from him as a leader?

Growth Mindset

He continually focuses on progress referring constantly to the team being in a state of development, it is about growing, learning and developing as a team. He likes to learn about his players rather than dictate to them "In the beginning when a new player is coming in I don't give them information. It's like 'let them play.' You learn more about the players each day and how to treat them, how to deal with them." He also understands he does not know everything “I need experts around me” to help create a winning team.


Earlier in the season Klopp ran on to the pitch to celebrate with the team, he couldn’t help himself as the passion took over and was then fined by the FA. His passion can be seen every game with his fist clenching, bear hugs and his enthusiasm for the game seeping out on the touchline. “The only thing I can do is to put all I have – my knowledge, passion, heart, experience, everything – into this club. It should work at one point. When we win something, Liverpool will explode in a very positive way.”


Klopp has labelled himself the normal one because he is so like everyone else, he has an infectious personality and empathetic nature which can be seen how he iswith his players. “It’s also really important that you have empathy, that you try and understand the people around you and give them support.” He connects with his players on every level and because of this they want to give their best for him.

Leads by Example

Klopp always has a big smile on his face and projects energy to his players understanding the importance of leading by example, “As a leader you cannot be the last who comes in and the first who goes out. You don’t always have to be the first and last, but you do have to be an example. I try everything to be successful as possible. I live 100% for the boys, with the boys, doing what we can for the club. It’s not really a philosophy, it’s just my way of life."


Klopp understood the type of club Liverpool was before signing, he understands the importance of the club to the fans, he makes those connections and nurtures them. He creates a togetherness with the team, club and fans so everyone feels they are in this together. As Daniel Sturridge is quoted who was only used sparingly all season and never got on to the pitch in the final, “The belief in the group, the togetherness, there’s no egos, there’s banter. I contributed – even the players who haven’t played a minute. There are guys who have been on the bench who haven’t played a single minute but they have been part of it. From training, to acting like the opposition that we have been playing against, to doing a job, to sacrificing themselves and the way they play just to train to do a job on the training field to help them prepare themselves the best way they can. It’s amazing.” This is the environment Klopp creates and the commitment he gets from his players.

Never give up

Klopp says when it comes to losing,“I lost the last 6 finals I was in. They were hardly the best days of my life, but they didn’t make me a broken person. For me, life is about trying again & again.”


Jurgen Klopp from the moment he came to the club said “We have to change from doubter to believer. Now.” Along with making the prediction within 4 years he would win silverware for the club which he has done. Klopp works on the mentality of the team, the whole club and its supporters to ensure they believe and are in it together.

Humour and respect

In his interview after the final he can been seen singing “Let’s talk about six baby…”…he provides humour and respect towards others in his interviews and is known as being great company to be around. Even when he doesn’t win like last year in Kiev he was seen out with Liverpool supporters singing and having fun.

So Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are Champions of Europe 2019 and he is the master at creating a commitment culture not just at team level but right throughout the club. For those at the game last Saturday it could only be described as something unique, special and almost spiritual. Which only goes to highlight with all the differences we face in the world that together we will always be more.

What lessons do you take from Jurgen Klopp? And how are you or can you apply these leadership lessons to what you do as a leader in life?

Responsive Leadership Development - How to assess what type of leadership development your organisation provides

30th May 2019

The future is changing every day and we can all make predictions as to what the future may hold. Some are more qualified than others to make their predictions with some having safe predictions like self-driving cars to the more visionary like we will all live in space and the Earth will be a place we visit on holiday which was recently revealed by Jeff Bezos to help save the planet in the future. One thing is sure, no matter where you work now or in the immediate future organisations will continue spending millions on Leadership Development. Yes you would think by the total money spent to date we might actually be there by now but we know with learning, building capability and developing potential it is an ongoing process.

The current trend is that digital technology is the holy grail, employees own their own development, technology provides all the learning so away you go and knock yourself out. Learning and LD box ticked big time as we have landed the technology, it looks great and you can’t complain there is not enough stuff for you. Plus it has AI which through machine learning will push out and remind you that what you said you wanted to learn can be found verse and chapter through articles, video, podcasts, books and more at your own fingertips. So we tell ourselves 'job done' leadership development and learning truly boxed off for the future generations to come…now let’s get back to the real business stuff we should be focused on. And we have the awards to prove we are a learning organisation what more could our employees or leaders ask for?

If this was the case it would be article over but we all know there is so much more to developing leaders and our employees. The essence of having a growth mindset is about continual learning and that is what the new AI machine learning powered technology is helping to support and providing some amazing platforms that help leaders grow. One of the challenges in the future will be to know which platform to use as they are now popping up more and more with providers now looking to capitalise on the market.

In the 2018 State of Leadership Development Report from Harvard Business Publishing it found that millennials are more critical of L&D programmes citing that they lack innovation, are not relevant and should be using well sourced content to address the strategic needs of the business. They are looking for a more responsive, innovative and credible development approach compared to a one size fits all.

So lets explore different types of Leadership Development and you can assess where your organisation currently resides…

The Reactive LD Organisation

This type of organisation has developed leaders historically by building what the business wants. There is no set LD strategy because by HR supporting the business LD has grown reactively but because it has been overtime it is viewed more organically. The business requests a meeting and drives the agenda HR goes away with a 'to do' list and looks to provide solutions in house firstly or then looks for the best external provider to plug the skill gap. Occasionally there will be a flagship leadership programme driven out by one of the Executive team based on an event or speaker they have seen but delivered then by the Learning or LD team within HR. There will be pocket industries found across the company doing different things so it can get frustrating that what is being provided is not always connected to the bigger picture and is for short term results.

The Static Model LD Organisation

This type of organisation has taken the time to build a leadership framework or model. There will be clear competencies or leadership behaviours. There will be various ways to learn as a leader and it will be linked back to the leadership model. You will through your performance conversations based on how you rated have development actions or a plan of competencies you will need to develop. Therefore based on your performance conversation you can now easily help yourself by going through the LMS or Intranet to be able to self-serve and attend the development options the company provides. The options are blended and the company provides a wide range of learning opportunities. This is the static model of leadership development and once in place there may be Exec or Senior Leader development but everyone else self serves and owns their own development.

The Digital Model LD Organisation

This type of organisation has run to digital or is already a digital organisation. The belief here is that technology can provide all learning and leadership needs for individuals no matter their learning preference. Digital is the future and it is all encompassing plus it will measure and track your learning. This organisation provides digital self service solutions and then little else in the form of meaningful development unless there is an urgent need that the digital solutions are unable to provide but they will still be directed to some self-directed learning as part of process. The 'netflix' approach to leadership development is seen as the way forwards.

The Responsive Model LD Organisation

This type of organisation will ensure that they have aligned their business strategy and desired culture to their leadership development. They will have considered what good looks like for leadership and defined it for their leaders ensuring all leaders understand the organisations leadership success factors. There will be a clear leadership development strategy built year on year that is responsive to the needs of leaders to build capability based on these leadership success factors. There will be a blended range of solutions and self-directed digital solutions are only one option provided to leaders. What is provided is collaborative and in time development throughout the year through communication, events providing external thinking, internal social media content and experiential learning. The responsive approach ensures leadership development is a vehicle to embed the desired culture and to future proof leaders.

So I'm curious what other types of LD within organisations have I missed? Where is your organisation right now based on the four above? And which of these approaches will ensure your leaders are fully supported now and in the future?

Leadership By Design: How to Create a Leadership Culture

9th May 2019

When we think about leadership an obvious question that comes to mind is are leaders born or are they made? Are leaders a product of nature or nurture? It could be easy to argue for both sides and then summarise by saying it is a combination of both. The age old argument settled by the easy way out and it would be true that some may be more suited inherently to roles in leadership because of their natural preferences.

But on the other side of the debate Leaders can be made and generally any leaders we thought were born to lead were probably a by-product of experience rather than pure talent. Yes some people like barking orders and their behavioural style may be more suited to being in control. But as we know in the sophisticated digital world we now live in that does not make a great leader nor is it a demonstration of great leadership. Leadership is now so much more than this especially when we are living in an age where we are questioning what it means to be human.

Leadership in a Human World

Leadership can be defined not as a role but by the actions one takes, the decisions one makes, and the behaviours one role models. We are all leaders and we can stand out for the right or the wrong reasons based on our understanding of what good looks like when it comes to leadership and the behaviours we demonstrate. One of the best quotes on leadership is from Tom Peters, 'True leaders don't create followers they create more leaders' and in the times we now live people expect to be treated like a leader, absolutely not a subordinate, or a follower, or a person's job title. They desire freedom, autonomy, the opportunity to be creative and feel like they are making a difference. They are allowed to have and understand their purpose as.leaders in their own right. And as leaders we facilitate the process of understanding the whole person and helping them grow personally and professionally. It's actually about taking a genuine interest.

Because a trap any one can easily fall into with people when leading is treating people as objects or like a task rather than as human beings. Because we project manage our work it is easy to then treat people like a project and not as a person. This in itself is a great reason for why it is important we define what success looks like for leadership for leaders. Leaders then have a shared understanding of what good looks like.

The fundamental point is that leadership can be defined and therefore designed which means we can create a definition of what good looks like in the form of success factors for any organisation aligned to their business strategy. This is about assessing the organisations past conditioning, current strategy and vision for the future.

Competencies versus Success Factors

Ok so some may say we already have this as we have competencies now for every role and every job. We have core competencies, functional competencies and technical competencies which define the aspects required to do each role and we may have a model made up of leadership competencies. From a recruitment perspective gaining an understanding of the key requirements of role competencies are fundamental to be able to assess candidates and for ongoing management of performance. CIPD reveals that 60% of employers have a competency framework in place for their organisation.

This framework normally will form part of their performance management system even though now most organisations are starting to move away from traditional performance ratings to a more softer approach based on value add to the organisation, career conversations and a person's development growth. It will be fascinating to see how competencies are used within these new ways of working across different organisations when it comes to managing performance in the years to come. In the future gig leadershipwill become the norm along with movement between roles happening more frequently and with the ever increasing rate of change with new types of job created being created competencies will quickly become outdated.

Also the traditional 360 tool over the years has focused on job or leadership competencies to assess performance and provide feedback but used more from a 'fixing weaknesses' perspective which can be very de-motivating to any leader. Especially as we are seeing a move towards a strengths based approach and philosophy when it comes to 360 or at least focused on stretching strengths as well as development areas. There is nothing worse than when an individual gets a report with no coaching conversation or the conversation with their manager is about fixing weaknesses to make them better rather than focusing on their strengths and what they do well. When focusing on weaknesses although important at times as we now know can be very demotivating whereas focusing on strengths leaves employees engaged, enthused and motivated to do their role. Especially with a leaders approach genuinely focused on the whole person and their career aspirations.

So competencies are obviously a good thing to ensure that an individual understands what the key requirements are to do a role, for organisational job structures, future planning and they help in earnest in shaping an understanding of what good looks like. But competencies are not always easy to relate to from a behavioural perspective nor do they inspire people to be their absolute best. This is where leadership success factors come in to play because they are based on defining what good looks like for leadership but are much more relatable than competencies because people can see how they derive from other people's success as well as their own.

The Importance of Understanding and Relating to Success

When people identify with success from their heroes they are more likely to relate to what it takes to be successful. So Tiger Woods resilience through injury to comeback to win another masters, Roger Federer's self-belief to keep going at his age and win another Masters or as with the last couple of nights the amazing success both Liverpool and Spurs have demonstrated in belief and not giving up. We can easily see what it takes and what it means to be successful if we analyse it and define success. From these individuals, teams or managers we can understand the leadership success factors that make success possible.

So if we focus on the greatest leaders, sports, and business people we will see the same type of success factors such as aspiration, drive, belief, resilience as examples which we allget, relate to and understand. Therefore we are focusing on success rather than capability but we accept capability will obviously play a part in anyone's success. But what we have is a language that all people understand which we use to define what good looks like. It is the process of leadership by design.

Naturally there are different ways to define and then design these success factors dependent upon the nature of whether it is for leadership, sports, business, schools, universities or any other profession but the overall essence is the same which people can relate to so in general success factors like EQ and Resilience are totally transferable and relatable across the spectrum of industries and professions.

Building Leaders for the Future Today

In an organisation who recently applied leadership success factors engagement increased by 40% over a four year period because executive and leadership development were aligned to the business strategy and leaders understood their leadership expectations through their leadership success factors. The leadership development strategy was then based on those leadership success factors to provide responsive, innovative and experiential development based on their leaders shared understanding. What is key is that leaders do relate to leadership success factors and they can be combined with competencies that are important to the organisation if required.

Also leadership success factors are future focused which is essential in an ever changing world and to be able to future proof leaders. You define what good looks like for leadership in the future and you start developing it now.

Having the right leadership architecture in place for your organisation is essential as a product of leadership by design if you want to future proof your leaders and ensure you thrive during these times of uncertainty and change. And although there is much more to creating a leadership culture the importance of not rushing to solution, not shooting in the dark and having a clear blueprint for leadership is the foundation for success built upon an understanding of success. Because with the right leadership awareness and accountability of this will ensure your leaders can shape the future of your business today.

Speaking at Westminster University Human Resource Management Conference

10th April 2019

It was great to present at the University of Westminster Human Resource Management Conference on building a leadership culture. The event is sponsored by 10Eighty and their CEO Michael Moran chaired the event and the aim of the event is the inspire as well as provide insight into the world of HR. More importantly to provide speakers who can provide thoght provoking content on trends in the HR space.

Cristina Tomas from PwC talked on leveraging reverse mentoring to faster inclusion and engagement in the workplace. Hannah Moran talked about playing to your strengths and the benefits of using strengths to help manage your career introducing Strengthscope 360 to the students. The brilliant Jonathan Tear talked about 'Being the Leader you want to see.' sharing his disability and telling his inspirational story on what is possible even when you can't see. And Stuart Henderson from Together Housing Group talked about leading large scale structural transformation to maximise efficiencies.

I was then able to conclude by talking on how to build a leadership culture and provide a case study for the students to consider. Afterwards there was opportunity to spend time with students to answer questions and really help them to develop their thinking about what it is they would like to do next and general questions they had about the presentations.

All in all a very satisfying event and great to get the opportunity to provide some insight and food for thought for young minds who will be the leaders of the future.

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