Klopp, leadership & learning assets

Marc Zao-Sanders Sep 01, 2018

Liverpool lost the final of the Champions League on Saturday night, 3-1 to Real Madrid. Beyond the result, the manner of the defeat was difficult for Liverpool: their best player was injured after half an hour; they conceded three freak goals (one stupendous bicycle kick and two terrible goalkeeping errors); for the last hour Real were clearly the superior side and the outcome felt inevitable.

Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, was obviously devastated. Nonetheless, as he conducted the post-match press conference he showed a number of qualities that define outstanding leaders.

  • Professionalism. He showed up (some managers send a deputy when they are upset) and answered all the questions put to him. He congratulates the winners at the outset. He demonstrates presence of mind and good manners when he thanks one of the journalists for a compliment he is paid. He says at one point ‘I am absolutely not fine but I try to be professional.’
  • Honesty. He analyses the game rationally though he is emotionally affected. His description of the game is balanced, articulate and insightful. The point when is a balanced assessment of what happened in the game.
  • Humour. Humour is often a faint light that leads us out of dark times. It also demonstrates control looking to you for guidance. Notice Klopp’s reactions to both questions from the Ukrainian journalists.
  • Compassion. The Liverpool goalkeeper made two mistakes which are rare in professional football, let alone at this level. Still, Klopp does not point the finger at the goalkeeper. But nor does he avoid the issue or cover it up. He concedes that it was not his keeper’s night, that it will be tough for Loris Karius, and that the team will help him.
  • Resilience. In exhibiting the qualities above and more Klopp is also showing how to be resilient through hard times. Those who know Klopp will know him for his energy, passion and big smile. Though we don’t get any of that in this 12-minute clip, Klopp was singing with Liverpool fans later that night, as covered by the BBC.

The Australian Leadership Institute have also picked up on the instructive benefits of Klopp’s leadership.

People really feel football. Millions of fans and even neutral observers were affected deeply on Saturday night. Any lessons we can glean from football world are therefore more likely to stick. This is the power of affect. As Nick Shackleton Jones explains, ‘we do not remember events; instead we remember how we felt about them and we use these feelings to reconstruct the event.’ A strong emotional response is a big part of learning anything new.

But standard learning assets are dry, dry, dry. So if you want to make an impact with the learning you’re offering, try looking beyond learning. Look at news, politics, football, music, comedy or an area of human endeavour you know your audience is into. Of course, you’ve got to pick the right stuff. And that’s hard as all of a sudden your library of potential learning assets grows from many thousands to many billions. And you may need to frame the material in order for it to work in your context for your audience. But the prize is big: really, truly, actually, emotionally affecting your learners.


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